Rowe and Company, LLC

Professional Services for Broadcasters and Businesses

New Face of Labor

Independence Day Concert

International Freelancers Day comes Sept. 21st.  The International Freelancers Academy has issued a new report on the state of independent contractors.  Here’s a link to David Michael Moore’s infographic on the industry.

Celebrate Labor Day Sept. 3rd.

James Rowe



Trust is a Must Grasshopper

Praying mantis (macro)

Movie critic the late Gene Siskel was an honorable person. He and Roger Ebert recorded their show in the CBS studios in Chicago where WBBM Radio was located.  The Siskel and Ebert  show I believe ingrained in the culture “thumbs up” and “thumbs down.”  The encounter that helped me comprehend Siskel’s honor and journalistic credibility involved movie director Spike Lee.

I was a reporter for CBS in Chicago when a female colleague was excited Lee was in the building and she asked him for an interview. She returned to the newsroom crestfallen.  She said Lee flatly refused to answer her questions.  I told to my colleague I’ll follow up with him.  I went downstairs where Lee was conferring with Siskel.  I greeted them and asked Lee why had he refused to interview my colleague.   He looked at Siskel and then me and responded I’m under exclusive contract to Siskel.  I understood and prepared to leave when Siskel looked at me and said to Lee give him an interview.  He waived his restriction to resist competition. He knew the gesture of trust would pay off again and again.

That gesture of trust is what I hope to assist you with in the form of a new checklist for buying technology.   The annual international convention for broadcasters in Amsterdam comes next month. IBC2012 is set to present broadcasters with numerous exhibits and chances to purchase the latest in technology.  So below is a download link for a document with some points to add to your check list when you watch demonstrations of media technology.   Amsterdam has always eluded my presentations however I spent more than ten years demonstrating media technology in Las Vegas at NAB.

The new mantra for media technology should be “trust is a must grasshopper.”  Repeat it when awakening each day and before you close your eyes at night.  “Trust is a must grasshopper.”

I have worked with chiefs of engineering throughout the Americas and I will give you any of them who will attest to my integrity.   I refused to present a demonstration of a feature that had not been released without warning the audience it was under development.  There was a CBS network engineering executive who had a running game to catch me with sleight of hand if something failed on me in a demonstration.   It was great fun.   I enjoyed the cat and mouse matches.   I had no issue explaining what went wrong and why.

So I will offer you an insider’s view of some points you should consider when vetting technology. I was a pre-sales engineer for Avid Technology for a decade.  Every vendor hawks their latest and greatest upgrades and improvements at trade shows.  As was the case with Lee’s non-compete contract with Siskel there are non-disclosure agreements, intellectual property restrictions and contractual arrangements that prevent vendors and presenters from being absolutely forthright.   However, vendors should be upfront about such restrictions. They should be honorable like Siskel.

Jamie Yap at ZDNet has written a post that is must reading for everyone who purchases software but especially for a mission critical broadcast enterprise.  She argues for perpetual software testing. As you prepare to navigate the corridors of the exhibit floor at IBC have among your list of questions inquiries about software testing procedures.  Even the best vendors have issue rigorously testing their software enough to avoid problems in implementation.   It’s most difficult to test for every possible situation but as Yap requests continual testing is a path toward better products.  So you want to know the vendor is always improving and testing their technology.

A new process discussed in the media and entertainment industry is called “software oriented architecture.”  So to get started understanding SOA here’s a link for IBM’sSOA for Dummies” eBook to download and read on your flight to The Netherlands.   There’s much more if you download the document below.

Your checklist should cover some points offered by the Advanced Media Workflow Association. AMWA is in the vanguard with SOA and software development for the media and entertainment industry.  At IBC2012 the European Broadcasters Union or EBU will be presenting more information on the Framework for Interoperable Media Services.  There has been discussion for the past few years regarding SOA and FIMS and the benefits for media technology.

FIMS takes into account agile software development and scrum.  Questions regarding agile development and scrum should be on your checklist when meeting with vendors.  Their answers will give you an indication of what goes into developing the tools for your productions.   Their responses will begin the process of trust.

Let’s round off your check list with questions about professional services.   What is the vendor’s project management and project engineering staffing?  Are their managers and engineers with experience in media and entertainment?   And how large is their customer support staff?  What is the average CS response time?  Is support email or telephone or both? Is there a user’s group and knowledge base?

Today’s media production needs are multi-platform and mission critical.   You have to know and trust the vendors of the tools you use.   You have to be confident they can back you up adequately.   Ask questions like you would ask your doctor.   Measure your decisions by their responses as well as their offerings.  And repeat the mantra “trust is a must grasshopper.”

Download questions and research below:

20 Questions for Trust and 25 Links for Education

James Rowe



Google + Hangout On Air

On the air, the red warning light is lit. Careful entering and leaving the studio. Do so as quietly as possible if at all necessary. That’s what it’s like with Google + Hangouts On Air.  The sessions are live streamed and archived on YouTube and Google +.  Just as I remember my days on air in radio and television falling objects, irrelevant conversations and a poorly lit and unattractive set are unprofessional.  Ah memories of producing and performing.

Google Hangouts and Hangouts On Air are limited to ten participants but On Air the hangout is open for public viewing.  Hangouts are a part of every Google + profile.  The service is open to everyone with an account.  Check the upper right corner when logged in on the web.  On Air though takes your hangout to a new level when presenting it publicly.

Google promotes Hangouts On Air as a way to broadcast your conversations to the world.  However only nine or fewer of your friends or associates in Google + Circles can be invited to take part and engage with you on air.  There are restrictions and definitely tips to get the best out of the experience.  You’re beyond starting a chat session or Skype call with a few friends when you hang out on air on Google +.  You are broadcasting on a new media platform and you had better adhere to some traditional rules of hosting on air programs.

Read about Hangouts On Air on the Google blog and it all looks so simple.  It really is.  But if you want to look good hanging out with your circles you had better have some training in television production.  Hangouts On Air were developed with traditional broadcasters, who tested and helped develop the service.  Google even boasts of such in the blog post.  Perhaps that notation helps you realize why true production values for a professional hangout with nine people involve so much technical understanding.  Check out the Hangout On Air Technical Guide and you’ll clearly see my points made here.  If that’s too much reading then scan this starter guide at Google + Tips.  It’s a quick start approach.

See for yourself with the presidential hangout Google produced with President Obama how a well produced hangout presents.  Watch as the very skilled host moderates from a professionally lit set and introduces the limited number of people invited to hangout with the Chief Executive.  It’s a slick presentation even though it runs almost six minutes longer than the recommended duration for a well received Hangout On Air.  Hey it’s the President.

Australian consultant Jeff Bullas writes about social media and he has a trio of blog posts that give you an excellent idea of what’s involved in video blogging - content production that compares most to Hangouts On Air.

You will want a proper place to conduct a hangout on air and that means lighting and other set considerations associated with professional television production.  Yes you need to consider the web camera you use, how you look, the microphone and other audio.  Also important to note is you would be better off with a wired connection to the Internet and wireless as a backup.  This all sounds like a real television production to me.  I thought the technical guide was an excellent read and I highly recommend it.  It’s professional and encourages readers to be likewise in producing a Hangout On Air.

Facetime and Skype video chat fall short in comparison to Google + Hangout On Air because as Google says you’re broadcasting to the world with hangouts on air.  So you want to dress right, be well groomed and possess the skills of the ageless television host Alex Trebek.  I’m sure your circles and the world will appreciate your efforts if you do so.

James Rowe



Where Americans Get Breaking News Morphs

Egypt Protests 2011 news sources from the Pratt Library

The way I consume news information has dramatically changed and I have to think about it to realize it.  How about you?

Every morning I follow a routine for gathering information and news.  I still read in at the start of my day.  It’s a habit I have retained from my days as a reporter. I recall an intern who worked with me for a summer razzing me about highlighted sections in my news magazine.  Today though my news sources are mostly online.

Look at the infographic produced by Roy Morejon for Social Media Today and you will think social media leads traditional news sources for getting information to Americans faster.  Heck you could use as support for the transformation the fact Fox News and CNN this week botched and first wrongly reported the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.  They did so even though the high court’s social media site had firstly and accurately reported justices upheld the act.

Morejon’s graphic is subtitled “How social media is replacing traditional journalism as a news source.”  Data he cites indicates nearly half of all Americans learned of breaking news from social media rather than official news sources.  Interestingly the infographic shows social media a whole percentage point behind newspapers and the number three news source for Americans.  Top that with Facebook leads as the online news source.

There is always the question of the veracity of breaking news reports.  Professionals should know how to deliver breaking news with the caveat information still has to be verified.  But then how accurate is information delivered so fast by any source?

Social media still lags behind official sources of news in terms of accuracy because user generated stories need to be checked as closely as official sources are supposed to examine information.  However, again you might also question that considering reporting of the health care act where two leading American television news sources got it all wrong and had to correct themselves.

I have to think hard when the Comedy Channel is considered as credible a news source as major networks.

Oh, I still clip and highlight sections of my news reading but it’s online and electronic. We have to adapt.

Where do you turn to get news first?  Let us know in the comment section.

James Rowe


The Long View: Time to Play Nice

The watch with no hands that still tells time

People tend to pull together in tough times even if they debate how troublesome it is.  A skeptical journalist, too, has to acknowledge repeated and persistent examples of good in humanity.  As a reporter I developed quite a bond with photographer colleagues because of common interests and working together to capture really sticky situations.  I always wondered how others functioned without the camaraderie I found with shooters.  In dangerous situations I would watch their back while they were recording events and they in kind would look out for me.  And when all was done they made hilarious outtake recordings of my antics.  I admit the presentations of the outtakes were funny.

This is the second post in the Long View series.

One of the most rewarding times of those days with my photog friends, honestly, was when I was left behind, frightened and alone, at a scene of a street gang shootout.  Yes my heart was pounding.  I was quite nervous really.  And especially jumpy when a citizen from the neighborhood approached my news car and handed me an envelope.  He was kind though, noticed my unease and took time to speak calmly to me and explain the envelope was clearly a paycheck receipt that had been lost.  It displayed the name of one of my shooter friends from a known network.  Here was an act of absolute responsibility and concern for people.  My associates and I had behaved responsibly and solemnly while covering the calamity, thank goodness.  I marveled at the honesty of the young man and how he handled me and explained what he handed me represented his concern for another.  He showed me trust.  And I was reminded through demonstration in the worst of situations there are good people.  My colleague was so grateful when I stopped by his shop and dropped off his lost receipt.  Our bond became tighter that day.  And my reward - my faith in humans was affirmed.

When I read the TVNewsCheck post last week “How To Make Social Media A Revenue Stream” I realized social media and traditional media were finding the esprit de corps I enjoyed with my shooter buds.  Christine DiStadio is listening and learning from customers of KHOU TV.  The author of the post and director of social media at Belo’s Houston, Texas franchise wrote “social media consultation and support is one of the most frequent requests we receive from local clients.”  Belo is embracing social media as a business practice according to comments from Joe Weir, VP for digital.

DiStadio points out “we now offer social media as part of an integrated approach to advertising.”  In some of the other US markets Belo covers their stations are finding new ways, including public service, to serve their audience with social media.  The precedent is set and now others should be able to see the Long View of collaboration rather than competition between new and old media.

Is 2012 the seminal year of engagement marketing?  That’s the very professional term, buzz words, for social media advertising or marketing.  What do you think?

Need some ideas?  Check out the websites Social Media Quickstarter and Engagement Marketing; both products from Constant Contact the email marketing company.  Of course there are other sources but these two are top of mind for me because I often visit these sites for idea generation and because I’ve taken their certification training.

As my shooter buddies and I learned in dangerous situations listening and good behavior win you support in foreign places.  I think the time has come for social media and traditional media to team up and affirm the efficacy of social connections.  There’s room at the table for all and business will be the winner in my humble opinion (would someone please shorten that for the net).

James Rowe



The Long View: Facebook Made Clear.

32000 feet

This post begins a series of reports planned on a 32,000 foot view of all media.  The Long View is our high level analysis of media today.  We’ll start with the social network that has received the most recent buzz.  Far too many reports in general media asked the question “what does Facebook sell?”  There are those more informed and more capable of determining the value of the initial public offering for the social network.  However we’ll take a stab at the easy question.

The news director that still beats inside me was annoyed by journalists who pose the question in their reports rather than avail themselves of published information to answer queries regarding what Facebook sells.  So the “Long View” comes down to earth to consider a few of the reports answering the question.  The most obvious place to start is with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  A complete prospectus was filed by the eight year old new media giant following the IPO.  The filing clearly points out what is offered for sale in its first pages with a graphic containing these claims - “901 million active users, 3.2 billion likes and comments per day, 300 million photos uploaded per day, and 125 billion friendships.”  That’s what Facebook is selling by the company’s own report.

And the prospectus offers another graphic to visually explain the mission of the now $100 billion dollar company is “to make the world more open and connected.”

 

In a Planet Money segment on NPR’s All Things Considered the question was asked “Is Facebook Worth $100 Billion?  The blog post from Planet Money’s Zoe Chace and Steve Henn offers another characterization of what Facebook is sells.

Chace and Henn point out the Menlo Park, California company sells data (age, marital status, gender, education, location) about it’s almost one billion users and they’re working overtime to determine how to sell stuff to their database.  In a posting on TechCrunch marketing executive Alexander Haislip insists Silicon Valley can do better than Facebook.  Haislip complains “Facebook sells advertising…but that’s not the best use of the brightest minds of our generation.”

Social media and email marketing firm Constant Contact and marketing research company Chadwick Martin Bailey  teamed up to study how consumers use Facebook and interact with advertisers.  Here’s a presentation on their research.


And if all of this is too much to consume Mashable offers “Facebook Users: 13 Ways the IPO Could Affect You.  Mashable’s reason number four is users will see more ads.  The Nieman Journalism Lab in their weekly review points to last week’s post “Red Flags before Facebook’s IPO.”  The report ends with the Associated Press and CNBC poll findings of Facebook user distrust and apathy.  The poll was published just days before Mark Zuckerberg rang the Nasdaq opening bell from Menlo Park marking the official move toward selling almost a billion friends pictures, videos, interests and likes.  You can read testimonials to Facebook’s mission on the NASDAQ website.

James Rowe

How Is The Weather Where You Are?

The Weather Channel Banner

We always want to know what the weather is going to be for our days off.  It’s good to let family know we’re OK when they watch the national weather and grow concerned about storm alerts in our locale.  Heck, we talk about weather around the water cooler, and these days that includes instant messaging and texting.

The popularity of the Weather Channel is its utility.  This week the channel reached its 30th anniversary.  Weather.com has a new redesign to celebrate.  At thirty it seems weather.com has grown into the circle of life with a reformat of their website.  The new look has gone social as well.

Punch in the zip code for your locale and click search to get a background picture and report of current weather conditions.  How about helping me on my way since I’m going to spend my day off grilling rather than fishing?  You can get both fishing and grilling forecasts but I chose grilling and receive Outdoor Entertainment forecasts with recipes and safety tips.  There was also a list of public parks near me.  Practically everything I need to plan my grilling weekend was there.  I can share the page with Facebook friends and social bookmark sites as well.  That’s an easy dashboard to start with.  It felt very friendly and useful while I was at The Weather Channel URL.

It seems like the Social tab content has growing to do though.  You can view weather tweets about your location under The Weather Channel social and pics and movies below iWitness Photos & Videos.  There is some growing to be done there too and that includes Blogs and Live Chats tabs.   It works only if you play and share and my goodness you can do a lot of sharing.  Check out the banner photo with this post.  There are the sharing buttons to make getting social easy for users.

Jordon Crook writes for TechCrunch this week “you see a severe weather alert on the site; you can instantly share it with your social networks to keep friends and family in the loop about your safety.”  She says the site will in the future permit monitoring weather alerts for those in your social circles.  Crook speculates TWC is preparing for the “digital future.”

Go ahead and get really social by Loving or Ughing the forecast at weather.com.

James Rowe



Social Media Coming of Age

Stop calling it “new media” admonishes Reuter’s social media editor.  Anthony De Rosa opines it’s not new it’s just media.  Social media is a prodigious fundamental of  media planning for sure this year.  Writing for TVNewsCheck Diana Marszalek explains “social media has become so important that stations are investing in training talent to use Twitter and Facebook and, in some cases, mandating it.”

There is still some nurturing of social media and so-called “traditional” media to come.  Producers, journalists, and content providers have to understand personalities of various media platforms the transformation to succeed.  Most uses of the Internet have been for communications – email and instant message – and research – hunting for sources and background.  “Social media is a whole different beast that combines research, combing for sources, communication and engagement,” Matthew Keys, Deputy Social Media Editor at Reuters, tells the 10,000 Words blog.

Mostly it’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube reaping the attention of media and new found connections.  YouTube Direct hungers for a marriage with stations and networks.  YouTube Direct subscribers put out calls for video and photos and accept or reject user submitted content.   Now Google + launches a powerful offensive into the mix.

Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Journalism school, advises in regard to social media “test it, understand it, know what it can do and then use it when you are ready.”  He clues in the website Mashable “things should fit into your work flow and your life flow.”  In the same Mashable post Rich Gordon, director digital innovation at Medill School of Journalist, Northwestern University, counsels social media is a tool.

Marszalek, in her TVNewsCheck post, points out the changing attitude toward social media using these words “the growing corps of TV news pros [are] convinced that social media are vital not just for disseminating news, but also for forging relationships with local citizenry.”  Vice president at the consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, Jaime Spencer, acknowledges engagement is critical but asks “who cares if you have 100,000 fans if you’re not using the reach to drive consumers back to your newscasts and website.”

Keys reasons in the 10,000 Words question and answer post “convincing the bosses at the top of the food chain that social is worth spending money on – both in terms of staff and products….since there isn’t a universal strategy for monetizing social platforms” is one of his biggest challenges.

Social media and media are one now.  They are married.  Friend, follow and hangout with people; like, +1 and pin their content please.  Serve your audience and grow your revenues.  Most of all have fun and enjoy being human and using new tools to connect with people

James Rowe