09 September, 2006

Thoughts On The WKRN Meetup

Wow. Deep title. Well, it was a much deeper meetup than I expected. Much of the usual crowd was there. People look different fresh out of bed vs. unwinding after a long day's work. Always generous, our hosts at WKRN provided a bountiful spread. Always timid, only about half the bloggers actually ate something.

The surprise for me was that there were four speakers and a long and dedicated lecture portion to the morning.

Mike Sechrist, WKRN's GM, spoke briefly about the history of WKRN's relationship with bloggers and the continued positive financial rewards the station has reaped from its association with the local blogosphere. The specific example he mentioned was their large ratings share in the double-broadcast of the Titans v. Packers game. Because the idea for that double broadcast came directly from respected blogger Roger Abramson, Mike rightfully credits his station's windfall in part to the blogosphere. He then touched again briefly on News 2's hopes to expand into the citizen journalism and citizen video content arenas.

Terry Heaton--always great to see him--was back briefly from Dallas and filled us in on the continued breaking of ground spawned by News 2's unique embrace of New Media.

Michael Rosenblum, the third speaker, was very much a surprise and kept the crowd entertained with colourful recountings of the history of communication and the new renaissance he sees in infancy as The Means Of Production are made more accessible to the masses. It was a bit of Karl Marx meets Spaceship Earth.

Mr. Rosenblum's envigorating speech was followed by a representative of Pheedo, an RSS-advertising services company. Pheedo's business model is one of brokering adspace onto individual blogs' RSS feeds.

I've been mulling these various presentations over in my mind for some time, and I think what I have to say is probably a bit of an echo of what others are saying in segments around the blogosphere. I've no doubt that some form of communication revolution is bubbling under the tarpit of mass media. But the disconnect, the problem, the Wycliffe-burning was clearly illustrated by the latter two speakers this morning.

Mr. Rosenblum represented everything that is hopeful and enthusiastic for New Media Distribution enthusiasts the world over. No longer is production of entertainment limited to the Media Rockefellers and Gettys. Any dude with a camera and a dream can create a multi-million dollar windfall series like Trauma: Life In The ER (Mr. Rosenblum's entree into CivVid--Civilian Video). But honestly, Mr. Rosenblum is not just any dude with a camera. He's based in New York. He has had previous network employ. He had a buddy he could call at the Learning Channel. Most Dudes With Cameras lack these three key elements when they sit in front of Final Cut with their own personal Amblin's.

Pheedo represented the cold hard reality of modern New Media. IF you advertise, IF you have enough readers, IF advertisers can be successfully solicited it is possible to earn $50 a month for your original content. Don't get me wrong--$50 is nothing to sneeze at. But it's a far cry from the multi-millionaire utopia Mr. Rosenblum spoke about. And that is the disconnect.

Yes, you have wonderfully talented people producing phenomenal new content every day. Not because they want the money but because they are compelled to write. Compelled to play music. Compelled to film. You see the best and worst of people's striving out here in the trenches. Some of the best stuff I've read this year has been free. Great writers writing because they must write or die, not because they were on the staff of Harvard Lampoon and now goldbricking on the staff of The Simpsons. I'm a writer. I am part of the write or die camp. I do this for nothing, and any comments I get are as great a payment to me as a check. Cash money'd be nice of course, but it's not flowing in abundance from the struck rock of Established Media.

Will there ever be money in it for groups like the Nashville Blogosphere? Frankly, I think there could be. But I really think that as long as we're still competing with the older business models of established print and video networks the best way for a blogosphere like ours to cash out would be to sell bundled advertising. Advertisers may not care about my 150 hits a day. But think of me as one page of the magazine. Think of Sarcastro as another. (Yes, this is one odd magazine.) Think of John H. as another, and yourself, etc. Would advertisers buy space in a block of blogs like this? I think they would--at least more readily. In my husband's work we see the complete glut of ad space available. I don't think microadvertising is the most workable model right now. I'd be most excited to see some type of sphere branding that would, like a liferaft, tie a bunch of blogs together for floating a more exposed ad buy.

Until then, if any of you camera-savvy people want a writer for your WKRN submission give me a holler. I lack a camera and come up a bit shy in overall telegenicness. But if you need the words, I got 'em.


At 6:48 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Amy said...

great thoughts! this was a very helpful post for me as I try to reconstruct this morning's meetup--thanks :)

At 7:59 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

If Mr. Rosenblum wants to hand me a high end DV camera and a Powerbook loaded with FinalCut Pro, I will be happy to crank out small budget programming.

But, me coming up with an investment of 10k in equipment along with the ability to support myself until TLC coughs up 200k while shooting episodes of "Demolition Contractor!" on spec, is not a bloody likely scenario.

At 8:04 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

That to me is a large portion of the disconnect. Not to go all starving-artist here, but he kept referring to being able to get the equipment "for nothin'".

I do not live in a world where $5-10K is "nothin'". Frankly, I don't think many bloggers or other New Mediites do either.

At 9:46 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Well-written. This was helpful for those of us who weren't there.

I think a Nashville ad network is a GREAT idea. Any bit of money helps, you know? But it is hard to imagine our blogs ever making huge amounts of money on their own. Although you never know...

At 9:47 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger John H said...

I loved the Rosenblum speech but your point is well taken. It's a little like the famous Pauline Kael quote after Reagan won in 1980.."I don't see how he could have possibly have won, I don't know anybody who voted for him"...when you live and breathe in the rarified air, you tend to forget how the 'unwashed' cope. All in all, it was an entertaining speech, and I do believe that blogging and vlogging (ugh, a word even worse than blog) are bringing about a small 'd' democracy in the world of information dissemination. It just feels like there are a couple more levels down until you get to my world. Those 'cheap' video cameras seem pretty pricey to me.

At 9:51 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I probably should have made clear that I, too, enjoyed the Rosenblum speech. It was entertaining, educating and well-presented.

I don't mean to take away from that speech at all. I just felt like as a bit of a groundling I had to add my own taste of perspective to the thing.

At 11:07 PM, September 09, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Very informative. As always, your writing was clear and concise and easy to understand.
One of the problems with VJs is that they are expected to do it all, and having a separate writer, as you mentioned you would (and could definitely do) is traditional news, not VJs. I've had 2 VJs ask me to write their pieces for them, and I had to decline because of ethical reasons. It wouldn't be unethical if the station knew a VJ was hiring a writer, but they wanted to do it without the station knowing.
Another invaluable piece of this new puzzle being disregarded is the skill of interviewing. When they send someone out with a camera who can't make eye contact with the subject of the piece, "the soul" is lost, not to mention the ability to get more from the subject than they intended to give because you've lost eye contact and stopping and starting to change settings,etc breaks the flow of an interview.
There is certainly a place for citizen journalists on the web and contributing to televison news. But making it anything other than a contributing piece, as opposed to the main diet, in my opinion is not realistic for the long term in television news.

At 11:17 PM, September 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Rosenblum was fantastic and has me pumped. Problem is, I just don't happen to have a couple thousand dollars lying around to get that nice laptop, digital video camera....I've got a great idea for a video blog, but, does this mean I can't participate in being "Sista...Citizen Journalist" cause I don't have the equipment?


At 12:50 AM, September 10, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

You can actually do a video blog very cheaply, meaning a digital camera that also stores video, or even a Hi8 for 150 dollars...just make sure it has three outputs to connect to a firewire. You don't have to have Vegas or final cut pro, you can edit on Windows XP program.
If you or anyone else is interested in doing a video blog, I can walk you through how you can do it for under 200 dollars.
I knew how to do it the expensive way, but Blake at Nashville Files is the one who taught me how to do it without all the bells and whistles. If you've seen his vlogs, he's just doing it with a digital camera. (I lent him some lighting equipment) Speaking of...tip to all on lighting, if you can't afford a lighting kit, buy one of those big paper white balls with a light in it at Pier One, attach it to a long poll, and that's all the lighting you'll need for a good shoot. It may not be network broadcast quality, but your piece will look good.
Sista, or anyone else, feel free to email me on how to do a vlog for a couple hundred dollars. Or email Blake. He's actually pulling it off.

At 12:55 AM, September 10, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Better yet, why don't we have a series of seminars done/ run by you and/or Blake, Sharon? I don't mean to volunteer you out of turn, but it seems like you all have the ontheground experience for some guts ball filmmaking.

I think a lot of us would be interested. It's the kind of thing we could book a conference room at the Library for.

At 1:31 AM, September 10, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

If there's an interest in it, I'd be more than happy to volunteer some time on how to make a film for almost nothing. I can't speak for Blake, but he would be great, too, because he's pulling off a vlog with no money.
Count me in! If you're up for organizing it, I'll do it. Blakes a nice person, I imagine he would, too.
Of course, I just ask that it be in the afternoon and evening.

At 3:24 PM, September 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only editing I've ever done was on my dad's old reel to reel tape machines when I figured out how to overdub my own vocals.

Didn't Sechrist say back in July that they could provide us with a video-er, or something like that, if we didn't have the equipment.

My poor old PC would probably not be so cooperative.

At 10:16 PM, September 10, 2006, Anonymous Dana VanDen Heuvel said...

You have great point about the micro advertising model and it's viability, which is exactly the reason why we want to band the Nashville bloggers together as an 'uber-network' of bloggers that we can bring to advertisers as a great whole, which ultimately drives up the value of the network and the advertising rates that the network (and its blogger beneficiaries) can command.

Michael is right on that there will be a VJ revolution of sorts, but the revenue model has to follow at some point. Sure, bloggers are making $50 - $1000 a month, depending on readership (some are making much, much more, but those are the edge cases). From my perspective, there are really only a couple of models. Ad supported and subscription supported. Most bloggers are supported by free tools, which are provided by companies that use an ad supported model, and do blogging on their "free time", supported by another income of sorts (aka, your day job).

Bloggers are learning what freelancers learned long ago. It's great to get paid "something" for doing what you love to do. If simply blogging means that you can get an extra $100 for your efforts and ideas, who's to say that's bad. And, you're all pretty far ahead being part of a larger network that could be a sought after niche from the right advertisers.

At 11:05 PM, September 10, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

Basically what you're saying is you want the bloggers to do the all the grunt work for almost no money, while they help WKRN "drives up the value of the network and the advertising rates that the network..."
For those of you who have never freelanced for a network, take no less than 50 cents a word. If you're experienced, one dollar a word.

At 3:31 AM, September 11, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I think Dana meant the advertising network, comprised of bloggers.

At 10:32 AM, September 12, 2006, Anonymous Dana VanDen Heuvel said...

Kat - Sharon,

Network, meant the "BLOG NETWORK", not the TV station. The 'value of the network' that I'm speaking of is the very network that you're part of already...the Nashville blogger community.

Perhaps we see this differently, but from my perspective, if you're already blogging, and paying to do it, or doing for free, then why not use RSS & blog advertising to generate some income where none was being generated before.

I'm certainly not suggesting bloggers 'do all the grunt work.' You're already doing the work. You're blogging. By working as a collective network (blog network), there is a certain 'power in numbers' when working with potential advertisers


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