Archive for June 25th, 2009

‘The King of Pop is Dead’ social-media time trial

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

michael_jackson_1971_got_to_be_thereWho was first to report on Michael Jackson’s death?

It’s just after 9:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 25 — the day of Michael Jackson’s death.

The first tweet from my admittedly small ‘follow’ list came at 5:24 as a retweet from Daniel McCarthy, who I don’t actually know, but rather stumbled across him in a retweet from a former boss for whom I have a lot of respect. McCarthy’s tweet was a retweet of a source that claimed Michael Jackson died from a sleeping pill. Suicided, accidental overdose, adverse reaction?

C’mon, it’s 140 characters. Ambiguous to be sure. Call it an unfortunate aspect of the medium. Or the fog of war/celebrity reporting.

The next tweet with the news from my list came in 5:45 p.m. (+21 minutes from the first report/+19 minutes from the event)  from TimAmikoff in Tehran, Iran (if I thought it was true, I’d ask if he doesn’t have anything else to do. And how did he end up on my follow list anyway?) TimAmikoff’s was a retweet from  CNN Breaking News, linking to a CNN story online that cited the LA County Coronor as the source, with the death declared at 2:26 p.m. I’m considering that to be the original primary source. It said nothing about cause of death, other than a third-party quote from one of Jackson’s brothers that he had collapsed in his home. I’m inferring (because the full story was vague) the state times were local, which would be time of death of 5:26 p.m. EST — two minutes AFTER I received the very first tweet announcing his death.

Let’s say my computer clock is off two minutes. Practically a probability.

So while CNN’s story took about 29 minutes to make it’s way to my computer via Iran, the news was out to at least one source within a minute or so of Jackson’s declared death.

That’s the one I got from Daniel McArthy, who was retweeting Wierd News, which linked to a Top News Stories site owned by Global Associated News — which seems to be an empty logo used by Fake-a-wish.com — a spartan website unencumbered by “About us” links — that in its entirety seems to be a dynamic content generator about fake celebrity news. Seriously.

The story said Jackson had died from a sleeping pill (later elaborated to “cardiac arrest after consuming more than two-dozen sleeping pills.”

At the bottom of the Wierd News Page was this disclaimer: (this story was dynamically generated using a generic ‘template’ and is not factual. Any reference to specific individuals has been 100% fabricated by web site visitors who have created fake stories by entering a name into a blank ‘non-specific’ template for the purpose of entertainment. For sub-domain info and additional use restrictions: FakeAWish.com.)

Can it be a coincidence that FakeAWish would generate this story even as it was happening? Or is somebody sabotaging FakeAWish by placing real big breaking news on it — within seconds of it becoming available, and then updating it?

At 6:22 (+58), CNN Breaking News tweeted that Jackson was in a coma — +37 from first reporting he had died.

At 6:30 (+1:06) TimAmikoff cited the LA Times as confirming Jackson’s death. CNN Breaking News followed within a minute, confirming from multiple sources.

A 6:42 (+1:18) the Wall Street Journal tweeted that he had been rushed to the hospital.

At 8:37 (+2:53) The Onion tweeted “The last piece of Michael Jackson dies.”

What it all means is that I still don’t know where the news really comes from. Except I didn’t get it from any of this. I was busy elsewhere. When I looked, it was all there, preserved by my Tweetdeck utility.  But I learned the whole thing at about 7:00 in a phone call from my brother-in-law.

A financial plan for the news’paper’ of tomorrow

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Peter Kafka, former media writer for Forbes and now blogging his own MediaMemo, asks the question (non-rhetorically), “What happens when your newspaper goes digital?” His immediate conclusion: Most of the staff gets canned.blackberrypd3_4001

In his blog, Kafka channels Outside.in CEO Mark Josephson whose business is to support local news operations with broad-based content as they make the move to digital themselves.

Josephson tells Kafka that his prototypical digital newspaper would have 6 content people (reporters and editors), 12 sales reps and a total staff of 20 (that would seem to leave room for 1 administrative type and one boss type — and no room for a graphic designer, web developer or I.T. person, which already makes me suspicious that his plan is too lean). He even provides a basic P&L spreadsheet for do-it-yourselfers who want to use his math as a starting point.

If the site does 40 million pages views a month (that’s a big number), augmented by twice that much traffic through third-party agreements, he figures it could earn about $2.6 million/year on $6.3 million in revenue. That’s a great margin — 41%. But compared to the kind of revenues daily newspapers are scaled for, it’s a pretty small business.

Plans like this are about 25% experience and 75% assumption, and anybody who would use such a plan would deviate from it almost immediately once into real operations.

But the takeaway is that, while existing media executives may not be able to swallow hard enough to scale down their businesses that much, they are currently being forced by the economy to cast aside lots of sales and content talent. It’s only a matter of time before that talent starts to challenge traditional newspapers companies with startups that aren’t burdened by guild agreements, large buildings, printing plants and boards of directors that demand every old-line revenue dollar to be replaced.

Back in the ’90s, when bookstores were being driven out of business by a previously unforseen competitor, new-age jargon had it that they were being “Amazoned.”

I’m curious what we’ll be calling it in the future. Journaled? Posted? Picayuned?