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Preview: stephen hill : spatial relations

stephen hill : spatial relations



thoughts on radio, music, technology and change



Updated: 2011-03-14T06:00:00-07:00

 



Funding the Future of Public Media

2011-03-19T17:57:47-07:00

by Stephen Hill "If public media is to secure its future, it must be with the public." SUMMARY This paper presents a set of ideas for reforming both the online service models and the internal business methods of the public media system to allow it to adapt fully to the...



The Apple subscription flap

2011-03-05T01:39:27-08:00

Mac blogger John Gruber at Daring Fireball posted a thoughtful, typically Apple-centric view of Apple's new, much criticized subscription policy cunningly titled "Dirty Percent." I thought he missed the biggest problem, so I wrote this. [ UPDATE: A later post "Who is the customer?" mentions this issue. ] John, Your...



Fear and loathing about mobile streaming

2010-09-16T13:02:50-07:00

Another season has arrived, and with it another round of discussion of the burning issues facing my colleagues in Public Radio. They have noticed that the mobile space has gone nuclear in the wake of the iPhone's arrival three years ago, and are wondering how to respond to that. To...



Reply to Jon Schwartz's "Challenge for Public Radio Stations"

2010-04-16T01:42:10-07:00

In the previous post Jon Schwartz calls the question I reproduced a 'polite indictment' of the public radio system from one of its most respected executives. Jon manages a network of stations in Wyoming, and is therefore most concerned with the fate of stations in the network era. I'm responding...



Jon Schwartz calls the question

2010-04-15T19:59:58-07:00

JON SCHWARTZ has been in Public Radio longer than I have, and that's a goodly number of years. While I've pursued an independent producer's course and created a succession of small businesses, Jon has worked his way into the executive level of Public Radio. He's been the General Manager at...



Radio Caroline North 1964-68

2010-04-15T19:02:26-07:00

Radio Caroline North 1964-68, originally uploaded by Tasa_M. Those were the days...



Growing the Network

2010-01-27T21:23:32-08:00

NOTE: I wrote this at the invitation of Skip Pizzi for a report by the SRG (Station Resource Group) in August 2009. I've since made minor additions and corrections, but it is substantially unchanged. What public radio needs most to support new media is not just disconnected projects or specific...



Apple buys lala.com; also, reinvents digital media

2009-12-05T05:20:25-08:00

This was cool enough to get me blogging again. Bob Lefsetz on the Lala sale here, FYI. My take on some of the implications:LALA I've been using lala.com for almost a year, and incredibly impressed with the sophistication of the service and the slick operation of the website. In the...



Cheap is the new free

2009-08-09T01:15:10-07:00

One of the best posts I've seen on the question of paying for content (at least from my preferred perspective) is on the 37signals blog. Read the comments too, they are eye-opening. In a post titled "How did the web lose faith in charging for stuff?" David Heinemeier Hansson of...



Simon Johnson on "The Quiet Coup"

2009-04-03T17:18:23-07:00

As the global economic crisis deepens, the curtain is drawn back to reveal the roots of the problem. This article is the perfect complement to several of the others I've posted recently. It looks deeper into the problem of entrenched oligarchies that control the financial and political agendas. Simon Johnson...



The Big Takeover : Matt Taibi on the financial coup d'etat of the Wall St. oligarchy

2009-03-25T20:20:56-07:00

Think that headline sounds reactionary? This Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibi might be the most outrageous thing I've read yet on the financial crisis. Other articles I've posted here have given parts of this picture, but to see it getting worse when you were expecting things to improve is...



Hazel Henderson on The New Financiers

2009-03-09T02:19:02-07:00

There's so much to be depressed, disappointed and angry about when you study the economy and how we got here, I thought I'd include something educational, positive and hopeful. You know, fair and balanced. Hazel Henderson is a respected futurist, economist, environmentalist and promoter of new social ideas. Here's the...



More from Niall Ferguson

2009-02-08T12:25:24-08:00

A heathy dose of reality, post-Davos. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/niall-ferguson/beyond-the-age-of-leverag_b_163872.html



Rational solutions for the economy

2009-01-21T01:34:37-08:00

MICHAEL LIND: The Next American System A comprehensive set of eminently rational ideas about how to fix the structural problems in the economy. Some of them are much easier said than done, but all of them are worth pondering. Will we have the political will to seriously consider them?



Meltdown; Reform

2008-12-05T21:38:43-08:00

In the last few months I've been reading everything I can about the the current financial crisis, trying to understand the underlying causes as well as likely consequences. It's tempting to see these events and the bailouts that have followed as simply the final outrageous chapter of the Bush Administration,...



What kind of innovation?

2008-03-26T00:14:20-07:00

In his Gravity Medium blog John Proffitt posted a chart showing the increasing speed of technical innovation in communications media and used it to tweak public media professionals about the glacial pace of innovation in the system. (That was a good metaphor before global warming...glaciers are moving faster than public... In his Gravity Medium blog John Proffitt posted a chart showing the increasing speed of technical innovation in communications media and used it to tweak public media professionals about the glacial pace of innovation in the system. (That was a good metaphor before global warming...glaciers are moving faster than public media these days.) The post led to a discussion in the comments between me, John and Rob Paterson, who served as a consultant to public radio in the "New Realities" project — a fruitless attempt to kickstart innovation on the national level. Innovation is good.  Innovation is necessary.  But as this discussion shows, even among those who agree on the need for innovation, it's easy to become bogged down in differing visions that may prove impractical or unproductive. I'm reproducing the discussion here so it is up a level in the blogosphere, visible and linkable. Most feed readers still don't give you access to comments. John Proffitt Says: March 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm Why innovation must be part of public media’s DNA If it seems like the world moves faster, technologically, with each passing year, you’re not imagining things. Consider this chart: Starting from its introduction, the simple telephone took 71 years to arrive in just 50% of American homes. Think about that. An entire generation was born, lived and died waiting for a telephone to arrive in their home, and only half of them got it! Even electricity took 52 years to reach 50% of homes. Cell phones — that ubiquitous device most of us take for granted — took 14 years, but the MP3 player took less than half that time. Basic Internet access — the new omnimedia connection — took 10 years to reach 50%, and in the early days it wasn’t even that much to talk about. Today, high-speed Internet access is in well over 50% of homes in the U.S. and average speeds are rising (though not fast enough for me). There are two lessons here I can see: We cannot be transmitter companies (and indeed, we never were — we just thought we were because it was easier that way). Technology is a tool, not a purpose. The public naturally innovates as better tools arrive for information gathering, sharing and entertainment. We must innovate with them to serve them; innovation must be built into our DNA. What other lessons can you see in this chart? A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. –Wayne Gretzky Tags: dna, innovation, mission, Public Media, technology This entry was posted on Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 6:00 am and is filed under Strategy,  innovation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 14 Responses to “Why innovation must be part of public media’s DNA” Stephen Hill Says: March 23, 2008 at 11:35 am Couldn’t agree more with your conclusions, but the premise needs this comment: one of the big reasons the “diffusion rate” of new technologies is getting faster is the switch to increasingly efficient and ephemeral technologies. To illuminate the difference at its most extreme: establishing telephone and [...]



Pack light and bring your values with you

2008-03-05T16:42:07-08:00

Continuing the conversation with John Profitt at Gravity Medium re The IMA Impasse: If you were going to start a locally-focused public media company today — without the overhead of gear, people or ideas from the old public broadcasting world — what would that look like? Is that one person... Continuing the conversation with John Profitt at Gravity Medium re The IMA Impasse:If you were going to start a locally-focused public media company today — without the overhead of gear, people or ideas from the old public broadcasting world — what would that look like? Is that one person and a web service? Is that a community site organized by one person but handled by volunteers? Or are geographically-centric community services passe, and we should instead focus on topical verticals, like the HoS model?John, The way you pose this question is revealing. Correct me if I'm assuming too much, but saying you want to  'start'  a  'locally-focused'  'public media company' implies you want to stay in Anchorage, and that some part of you is an entrepreneur as well as a public service media professional. Perhaps it's because of your local radio background, but to use a photographic metaphor, you seem to be zooming in and focusing your attention on a geographically limited area as the target of a web service. Turn the camera around and open up the lens to wide angle, and consider the media, services, communications networks and technical infrastructure environment that surrounds your geographic  area. Even though you may want to create a locally focused service, this is the underlying digital ecosystem that defines the set of possibilities and limitations you have to operate within. One thing that struck me from the very beginning when I started to go to Internet music conferences in 1999, was that absolutely everyone was talking about business models that could "scale." This almost always meant free services. Success was defined by an innovation that could be virally transmitted and grow to large numbers of users in "Internet time." This ability to scale rapidly would fuel and enable advertising-based business models. These prejudices are no less true today in the era of social networking, as several commentators have pointed out recently in articles like Kevin Kelly's "Better Than Free." The problem is that mass usage paradigms do not translate into viable business models for niche services. All of public broadcasting with the exception of the big NPR news shows and a few others is a niche in the media world. Geographically defined, locally focused services are also another niche in Internet logic. A locally-focused service like Craig's List, for example, can only scale via duplication and syndication to multiple geo-niches. So if you find a solution to a local need, it may have application on a larger, more extended scale. The other end of the geographical scale is to use the tools and resources of the digital ecosystem to build a what you call a "topical vertical" as we have done with Hearts of Space. This approach provides the same service to users world-wide. Theoretically this is the best way to build out a "global niche." [In fact, HoS now has customers on every continent, though they are still few in number because we do not have a corresponding history and broadcast presence on those continents, and we still charge a subscription fee for full use of our service. We are too small to be viable with advertising.] The question you pose of whether to pursue a local vs. topical service is one to be decided by p[...]



Calling the game

2008-02-27T18:05:00-08:00

This post was originally written as a comment to John Proffitt's review of the recent Integrated Media Association (IMA) conference at Gravity Medium. John was brave enough to pose some hard questions, and I am disillusioned and cranky enough to try to respond to them. John writes: In my (current)... This post was originally written as a comment to John Proffitt's review of the recent Integrated Media Association (IMA) conference at Gravity Medium. John was brave enough to pose some hard questions, and I am disillusioned and cranky enough to try to respond to them. John writes: In my (current) view, IMA appears to be at an impasse. We seem to have reached a point where integrated media advocacy has given out, where recommendations and demonstrations fail to move our organizations to meaningful action. To date, IMA has been effective at putting the online services question on the table within public broadcasting and has done so eloquently and repeatedly. But for all the work completed, no significant sea change has yet arrived. Meanwhile, the house of public TV is on fire, we’re losing audience to a fracturing media world across the board and new players (like Wikipedia and others) have stolen “our” web traffic and possibly our raison d’etre. I comment: After six or seven years of trying to push the river, I’ve regretfully come to believe that the forces that control the legacy public media system — both public television and public radio — are simply too entrenched, too defensive, too scared, and too innovation-phobic to respond meaningfully to the challenges of the digital era. It’s a pious, slow-moving culture that has always been satisfied with less. Unluckily, we live in a time of disruptive forces that demand clear, courageous and timely action on the part of all media organizations. Sure, there will be some forward looking moves made and some low-hanging fruit picked (like the Podcasting initiative) — especially by the leading stations — but the ball has been  ignored or dropped at the network and system level time after time, even after the extent of the digital challenge became clear. There is little evidence that sufficient positive forces are now acting within the system to change this. Negative forces are not enough. Cassandra-like warnings from me and others at various pre-IMA study groups and IMA conferences have proven to be slightly slow to arrive, but it is no longer in doubt that public radio will face a longer, slower, perhaps more painful version of the erosion and fragmentation of usership that has already disenfranchised public television, with the inevitable downward spiral of support from listeners, underwriters and funders. It looks like the system will get hollowed out from within by slowly cutting staff, production and services. In another ten years it could resemble a ghost network populated by aging ‘tentpole’ programs and whatever else has already built a national audience and remains a viable part of daily news & information service, with the surviving stations being little more than network retransmitters with various flavors of local toppings. Wait, that's now... The few stations that remain viable centers of program production and innovation have the best shot to adapt, but it should be worrisome that some trend spotters now see users wanting to support their chosen program brands directly, making all intermediates vulnerable unless they add value or own the program brands outright. This is Your Disintermediation at work. At the network level, it seems that NPR, PRI and APM and their t[...]



Jaron Lanier: Pay Me for My Content

2007-11-26T18:51:13-08:00

Just before Thanksgiving, Jaron Lanier published an op-ed piece in the NY Times titled "Pay Me for My Content." Part mea culpa, part advocacy, Jaron is tired of waiting for the Internet revolution to provide a living for artists and other content creators. The Hollywood writer's strike may have occasioned...



The CRB Rate Increases: Get Over It

2007-04-04T01:58:39-07:00

Royalty rates for online music have always been a complicated issue for me. I can see the side of the rights holders and performing artists just as well as that of the "casters," both terrestrial and web. I have a foot in both camps: in addition to being an online... Royalty rates for online music have always been a complicated issue for me. I can see the side of the rights holders and performing artists just as well as that of the "casters," both terrestrial and web. I have a foot in both camps: in addition to being an online music service provider/webcaster and thus paying digital transmission royalties since 2001, I had 17 years experience in the record business as a producer and co-owner of an independent label that released almost 150 albums. In that capacity I signed a lot of royalty checks. I like paying royalties. It makes me feel like an honest member of the arts ecosystem, a proper "cultural citizen." The recent CRB decision to ramp up the rates for digital transmissions have caused another outcry from the webcasting and broadcasting communities, including NPR and satellite radio. It's understandable that everyone in the broadcast business wants to operate with the lowest possible costs, but copyright has always been about finding the proper balance between competing interests.  The bigger picture is that we began webcasting in the 1990's with a distorted, biased music royalty system that favored music publishers and had been subject only to politically driven reforms and very limited competition since the 1920s. So the system that is now painfully being born for royalties on digital transmissions started from unfair and had nowhere to go but up. The more you know about  the history of the music business, the more certain you will be of this. Nevertheless, the current system still has a long way to go before we see a truly rational scheme for music royalties. New York attorney Bennett Lincoff has been dissecting this issue brilliantly for years. To my knowledge he was the first to call for a "unitary" scheme for music right in 2002; he won't be the last, since it's the only way to really make it work. Even U.S. Registrar of Copyrights Marybeth Peters called for similar (but more limited) reforms in 2005.  I'm signatory to a new effort calling for this kind of solution that includes many of the progressive voices on the Pho conference email list including Jim Griffin, Gerd Leonhard and others. What we have here, Pogo, is a policy gap. Bennett Lincoff's most recent paper describes a new system that is astonishingly simple on the licensing side but still fairly complicated on the payment side. Yes, it's just a proposal, yes, it would be highly controversial, and no, it is nowhere near being adopted; but it would be a MONUMENTAL improvement over the current system, which was created for the physical product era and makes less sense every day in the wake of a worldwide digital media network. The proposal demonstrates that if you free yourself from historical precedent and address the problem directly, fair and feasible solutions can be designed. Bennett lays this all out with admirable clarity in lucid, but not overly lawyerly prose; you will find studying it very rewarding if you really want to understand the stakes of the problem and the solution. As flawed as the existing DMCA legislation is, it at least recognizes and begins to repair two structural deficiencies in the old music royalty system that operate to the advantage of incumbent radio and TV[...]