Geonomics? I don’t even know what that is… Economics? One class that I absolutely hate and will never put my GPA through again… Socialnomics, on the other hand… I can’t get enough of.

I’m in Florida on Spring Break with a lot of time on my hands while I lay at the pool all day (Not trying to rub it in… okay, maybe a little). I picked up a book based on a 4 minute video that I used to watch every day, sometimes twice a day. Why did I watch a 4 minute video so often? Because it’s awesome. It’s a video that makes you think every time you watch it, it’s uplifting and most of all it’s exciting. Some might not think so, but I can guarantee anyone on the journalism, advertising and PR path will love it. See for yourself.

So since the video had such an impact on me, I went out buy the book. Only being 112 pages in, I already love it. Socialnomics by Erik Qualman talks about how social media transforms the way we live; it is not just a fad, but a new way of life.

In those first few pages, Qualman touches on the World of Mouth, as opposed to the Word of Mouth. In other words, how news and the internet has become one-to-many instead of one-on-one. Social media allows you to easily stay abreast of people you want to stay connected with. Instead of social media wasting your time, Qualman argues that it actually makes you MORE productive. It does this by being able to see what people are saying about certain things like traffic, how to decorate your room, what stores are sold out of a particular item. You also save time catching up with old friends, as their tweets or facebooks can tell you a world of information about them.

Instead of needing to find news ourselves, the news find us. We don’t need to wait until Monday morning to hear of the happenings around the nation, because online news is 24/7.

Qualman also touches on the wonders of blogging. He gives an example of a news site reporting on a story, versus a blogger blogging on the same story, who is an expert on the subject matter. Qualman says that sometimes bloggers, who work for free, are a better sources of information. At this point it’s not whether or not you do social media, but how well you do it.

As I don’t want to make this post merely a book report, I’ll stop giving away the greatness of this read now. But, I do encourage anyone who wants a good read to sit down and take this book in. Qualman makes some really good points and it’s well worth the $11.

Social media has indeed become a huge part how information is spread. For example, Charlie Sheen set a record of the number of twitter followers in a day and gone “insane” and Snooki has a best seller. I can’t help but think if social media wasn’t around, things like this wouldn’t be such dynamic news. Snooki wouldn’t be as popular and Charlie Sheen’s crazy antics wouldn’t be so well known.

Social media has helped out the citizens of Egypt during their protests and even in Japan, now, after a massive quake hit.

Social media is not leaving any time soon. Still think social media is a fad? Watch the 4 minute video or read Qualman’s book, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Is Internet Personalization Making Us Dumber?

In my first post I talked about echo chambers and how it is easy to find yourself hearing the same things or related stories over and over, without getting other perspectives or other types of stories. In my most recent post, I talked about the ethics of children’s behavioral advertising, and more widely, behavioral advertising as a whole.

In class, two other girls and I did a group media analysis on the ethics of behavioral advertising. We had a great group discussion, ranging from talking about the rights and wrongs of those lengthy Terms and Agreement pages, what is public, what is private, how much information gathered it too much, and where do we draw that line? Also, how should behavioral advertising be regulated and will it be effective?

Today, I’m combining those two articles in a way, talking about the implications of personalizing the internet. An article I found on Mashable argues that by tailoring these advertisements to specific individuals, it creates a universally uninformed society.

Eli Pariser, former executive director of, notes a recent observation. His conservative friends on Facebook stopped showing up on his newsfeed as often as they used to. He realized this was because of his frequent clicking behavior to liberal posts and liberal advertisements.

Pariser says, “this invisible algorithmic editing of the web moves us to a world where the Internet shows us what it thinks we need to see, but not what we should see.”

Even beyond social media sites like Facebook, Pariser notices his friends Google results are different. When one friend Googled “Egypt” the recent protests came up, but when another Googled the same thing, links for travel came up.

It is hard to escape our “filter bubble” which is our personal bubble that keeps us going back to the same perspectives and same news, rather than venturing out into points of view that we aren’t used to reading about. This is particularly important in political news. Yes, people have specific party affiliations, some stronger than others, but if you always tune into a liberal news station or a conservative new station, you’re not making yourself a well informed citizen. It is important to seek information that doesn’t always agree with your beliefs.

If you don’t seek this information, individuals become very one-sided and also arguably close minded.

Is it our own civic duty to seek all sides of a story, or is the the media’s civic duty to provide us with all sides, no matter what our online behavior shows?

Pariser says we should have controls on what gets through our filter and what doesn’t, which brings us full circle back into the ethics of behavioral advertising. Should it be opt-in or an opt-out? In other words, should the individual have to say that they want to be tracked behaviorally, or should they say have to say specifically that they don’t want to be tracked behaviorally.

It will be a long time until anything related to this subject gets effectively addressed, but like Pariser said, I’d like to see a world where we get “a bit of Justin Bieber and a bit of Afghanistan.”

Why online marketers should not target children

I was clicking around the other day, one of my favorite sites, when I stumbled upon an opinion article that took a particular hold over me. It dealt with the ever present issue: the Web and children.

Do you remember when kids used to spend hours playing outside? Head to the park for the afternoon? Leave on family walks with parents and maybe a dog? I do.

Now it seems that all kids want to do is stay inside and surf the internet for hours. I lived in a neighborhood where all of the kids would play games outside everyday after school until dark. Whether it was soccer, basketball, foursquare, catch or a made up game, we would do nothing but whine whenever the dreaded, “Time for dinner!” echoed into the streets from one of our houses. Now, I never see the younger generation playing outside in my neighborhood… or any neighborhood for that matter.

As children turn to the internet to spend their time, numerous ethical questions arise. One of them being whether or not marketers and advertisers should be allowed to target children. The concept of behavioral advertising is becoming more and more known, but should it apply to kids?

James P. Steyer shouts a resounding, “NO” to answer that question. He claims that not only does tracking children invade their privacy, but also causes concern that what they say and do will be turned around by marketers and information aggregators who aim to profit from their personal information and online activities.

The key policy protecting children’s online rights is the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act, which prohibits the collection of “personal identification” of kids 12 and under without parental consent. But this act was made before Facebook, Myspace and Twitter came to be. These sites, who all monitor personal activity, oppose legislation to restrict information gathering.

An option is in the works right now, a “Do Not Track” bill, that will set standards for how and when personal information can be collected. This bill will present the option to ‘opt out’ of online tracking. But, again, why should kids have to ‘opt out’ to protect their privacy? Shouldn’t they be excluded all together without needing to take that extra step?

Companies can track things like what websites are visited, how many times they’re visited, what searches are conducted, what videos are watched, as well as comments, emails, and instant messages, all without kids or parents being aware of what is happening.

Steyer strongly argues four rules for protecting privacy.

  • Instead of having to opt out, all sites should be opt in, meaning they must ask first before obtaining personal information.
  • A lot of policies are so complex people don’t bother to read them and go on to click “I Agree” without knowing what they are agreeing to. All privacy policies should cease this tactic and go forward being clear and transparent with their policies.
  • Everyone should be educated about online privacy.
  • Protection should apply across all platforms.

As children increasingly turn to the Web for entertainment, they are also subjecting themselves to the dangers of online predators and having their privacy rights be violated. I agree with Steyer that precautions need to be made to ensure the safety of our kids and the next generation. I would much rather my kids play outside than worry about not only what they’re doing on the Web, but what the Web is doing to them… Then again, it’ll be years until I have kids, and who knows what kind of technology will be out at that point…

Google Triumphs Apple in Digital Content Payment System

As history is in the making here in Madison with rallies, protests and passion, heat is also rising in the world of digital media. The highly anticipated digital subscription plan announced by Apple received negative remarks by publishers. This initial feeling of discontent is in reaction to a few details of the plan: Apple gets 30 percent of the cut, owns all subscriber data and limits publishers’ options for subscription services outside of Apple. Overall, publishers feel Apple’s plan is too restrictive and financially burdensome.

The Lab’s Josh Benton gives his take on the situation as he describes Apple as setting itself up as toll-taker on the news highway and putting a heavy incentive on converting print readers to tablet readers, but not putting restrictions on browser access within its devices. Other individuals give their opinion also: Dan Gillmor said Apple’s policy is stunningly ignorant; developer Ryan Carson urges users to fight Apple’s “extortion”; even Wall Street Journal poses potential antitrust issues.

On the other hand, the digital subscription might be the most user friendly system ever, according to MG Siegler of TechCrunch. Popular science is the first magazine to test out the waters, followed closely by Wired.

Right when publishers anxieties have peaked, Google swoops down to the rescue a day later to announce their own One Pass digital content system. Contrary to Apple’s 30 percent, Google will only keep 10 percent of publishers’ revenue, as well as allow publishers’ to own subscribers data. The Google plan focuses more on web access than app access.

In a nut shell and similar to Apple’s digital content system, One Pass is a way for online publishers to sell digital content on the Web and through mobile applications using Google Checkout. The system is made easier in that readers can get access to content on many devices simply using their Google e-mail address and password.

Google’s overall goal, said Google spokeswoman Jeannie Hornung, is to “bring publishers a simple way to charge for content they choose to charge for, and for readers to have simple access without any restrictions on which devices they use.”

At this time, One Pass is limited to online newspapers and magazines. Google has not yet signed up any big-name United States publishers, but it has announced some large European partners like Axel Springer in Germany.

The move heightens the competition between Google and Apple over digital content and the devices people use to read, watch and listen to it. I am a huge fan of both Apple and Google, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like two huge companies have a little controversy… It will be interesting to see how the two systems compare down the road.

In other news:

1) I have had the opportunity to be a part of history in the making as the rallies again Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill passionately continue. I have been down to the Capitol almost everyday, ranging from a five hour stay to a 10 minute stay. I have never been so awe stuck in my life. I didn’t expected people to be so heartfelt and determined at the protests. The entire time I was there during my first visit I had goosebumps throughout my stay. To put it simply, it was inspiring. People are fighting for what they believe in, but not only that, they are fighting for each other. Each person there was getting their voice heard to make a difference, sacrificing their time for a better Wisconsin. I can honestly say that I don’t think I will ever experience such a thing, it’s hard to even put into words. One particular moment that brought tears to my eyes happened Thursday afternoon in the Capitol. I was on the a third floor balcony, with a great view of the hundreds of people. From the rotunda one person slowly, very slow, released balloons on fishing wire. The balloons were Valentines day balloons, and he s let the string go little by little. The balloons to rose inch by inch until they were about half way to the top. When the man let the string go, the balloons floated to the ceiling… finally revealing a sign that was previously hidden at the bottom of the string. The sign read, “Power to the People.”

No matter your stance on the bill or your party affiliations, you have to be inspiried by what is happening in Madison and respect the ones who are getting their voice heard. Take 5 minutes out of your day to watch this fantastic video on the protests:  We Are Wisconsin.

2) Gawker’s redesign has people staying away.

3) Chattarati wants to change how we talk about schools

Is digital media creating echo chambers?

As newspaper viewership declines, more and more content is being dropped into the world wide Web. On here, viewers find anything from 140 character tweets to professional New York Times columns. The world of digital media is endless, a black hole of information. Not only is it a black hole of information, but more or less a spider-like web of content, as one link takes you to another link which, in turn, takes you to another link.

What’s the problem then? Infinite amounts of information given to you with the click of a button, how could anyone complain?

Science bloggers worry that they are stuck in an echo chamber. Now, if you didn’t have the infamous Professor Downey for your first journalism class like I did, you might be wondering what an echo chamber is. It is just the way an echo works, the news story bounces around the same area, maybe sounding a little different every time, but staying in the same space and viewership. Science bloggers worry that digital media phenomenon is affecting their ability to reach a mass audience with special-interest topics.

Ed Yong, an award-winning science blogger at Discover said, “With newspaper sales on the decline, people aren’t exposed to science stories nestled among other topics at the turn of a page. It’s hard to achieve the same effect in the heavily tagged and increasingly specialized world of the Internet. Surely, it is said, only people already interested in science will subscribe to a science blog’s RSS feed, or click on the Science section of the Guardian or the New York Times.”

Re-summarized, instead of viewers being forced to read about science in their newspapers, digital media gives them a chance to tune out any news that isn’t of interest to them. It is a lot easier on the internet to filter what types of news are being fed to you, and which ones you want to stay away from. Yong says that science related media will still be read by those with that interest, however those not interested can much more easily stay away from it.

What does that mean for society? What kind of well-rounded society are we if we don’t dip into different issues out of our ordinary interests and learn about something new?

Yong also demonstrates the other, more optimistic side of digital media; “When I link to a post on Facebook or Twitter, it reaches a few thousand people. Some of them pass the link on to their friends and followers, and it ripples outwards. At every iteration, the stories land in front of more potential eyes, with increasingly diverse interests.”

You can’t expect people to come to you, said Yong, you have to go where they are, or better yet, get other people to take them there.

“Digital media give us lots of new ways to engage our audience,” said Mariette DiChristina, editor of Scientific American.

Yong’s argument started after the ScienceOnline 2011 conference which was centered around science writing online. Another writer that sparked the issue was Emily Anthes a writer for the Public Library of Science (PLoS) blog Wonderland. Her post was entitled, “As Science Bloggers, Who Are We Really Writing For?”

Just as digital media can create an echo chamber, it can just as easily escape it with a little bit of innovative thinking.

This article began as an issue for science related media stories that writers worry aren’t getting out to a wider audience. However, it related to all special-interest stories whose viewership remains constant, reaching people only with the same views and interests.

As digital media tries to break out of the echo chamber, I leave you with a challenge. Take 5 extra minutes today and read an article that you don’t have a special interest in or a good amount of knowledge of. Who knows, you may just learn something new.

This is the start of a Revolution.

Pull the breaks! Drop the remote! IT’S…MY…FIRST POST!

Since it’s my first post and all, I think I’ll have to go cliché and list a few favorite Super Bowl commercials (but not mention anything about the Super Bowl itself… GO BEARS! It’ll be ours next year)

Here are some favorites:

And here are some not-so-favorites:

Any way, there’s the whole shabang of a first post – they’ll get better (let’s hope), but class starts in 6 hours… I can hear sleep calling my name.