Real-time social engagement

Remember the old commercial: "This changes everything."  I sense this about the real-time social engagement triggered by social media technologies, such as Twitter.

If you look to the left, you'll see my latest tweets fed to this blog site.  Suddenly, the blog is no longer a static commentary.   It now becomes an immediate opportunity for engagement with me. If you disagree with what I say here, then tweet me!

The significance of the sea change has to do with what media learned in the early days of the Web.  Television news, for example, found they could drive TV audience traffic to a website, and then use it to drive traffic back to the next newscast.

The "bounce" from one media platform to another is part of what makes real-time social media engagement so exciting.  The 140 character blip translates to expanded commentary, and then back to more discussion.

I am not sure Twitter has captured this market for the long-term, but the concept of real-time social engagement is here to stay.


The social media measurement problem

Whether you are a blogger, tweeter or marketing person, there is a need to measure and analyze your audience.  Listen to what Todd Murphy of Universal Information Services in Omaha told my Online Media students.

Murphy's approach can be boiled down to his phrase: "Same rules, new tools."  This places him at the other end of the continuum with speakers, such us Tom Martin, who proclaim: "Forget everything!" 

Somewhere in between these positions would be to learn from history of "new" media and make new applications of theory and knowledge.  To be fair, Murphy and Martin agree that "it's too early," and "the playbook... hasn't been written yet."

For example, movie attendance peaked in the United States somewhere about 1940, according to the classic book Milestones in Mass Communication Research.  Obviously, the diffusion of radio, television, magazines and eventually the Internet have changed the way we watch, but this did not kill the movie industry.

So, be careful -- as Murphy warns -- of self-proclaimed new media gurus.  It is enough to understand that fundamentals will carry us well into the next decade.  Bright writing, solid production, engaging story-telling and authentic communication always have been and will continue to be the keys to sustaining your brand.


Mobile and Social Media Opportunities

“This is a major curriculum challenge for media educators because change requires faculty buy-in and various levels of time-consuming approvals. So, we are not exactly a “just-in-time” environment. On the positive side, this gives us some time to avoid costly errors by jumping into empty pools.” -- Jeremy Lipschultz, New Media Academic Summit White Paper (2009), p. 14.

Click here to download and view the White Paper

The mobile media revolution places a chunk of the Internet in the palm of your hand. The iPhone, which has driven the push toward touch screen technology, prompted many new applications beyond mobile media extensions of traditional mass media access. While print media and international DTV access are noteworthy developments, it is social media that has the power to transform interaction.

Clear Channel Omaha's Matt Tompkins spoke to my Online Media Students

Facebook's update of the iPhone application offers nearly full Web features -- friend news feeds, inbox, chat, events, photos, notes and more. As the availability of 3G and wireless hot spots broadens, this makes possible real-time updates from events. We all have the power to shoot photos and videos for immediate posting on the Web. Move over traditional news media. The flow of information has again quickened, but this time it is not just about speed.

The constant and rapid flow of social network information also produces instant analysis -- even some informed conversation. While the cable channels limited "experts" to a select few sound bite artists, social networks offer a broader range of experiences that are not as biased, to name a few, by:
  • geography
  • educational background
  • age
  • income
  • political orientation

University faculty have a responsibility to guide students and develop instructional models for effective mobile-social media.

Powered by the context of personal histories and relationships, opinions here resemble the classic 18th Century coffee house conversation rather than the over-generalized "public opinion" industry. For example, tolerance for President Obama's speech to school children seemed to have its origin in some of the Facebook polls and commentary. By the day of the speech, armed with the released text a day before, key Republican opinion leaders supported it as a positive.

Maybe we can construct an environment that moves beyond petty exploitation of the political conflict narrative and toward real change.


FCC "Reboot" Will Fall Short

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today launched a series of inquiries into the future of its regulatory scheme. As the Obama administration and its 3-2 Democrat majority on the FCC places renewed emphasis on consumer protection and government regulation, Republicans on the Commission responded with the ideological "marketplace."

Both sides sit as bosses over an historic bureacracy constructed in the early 20th Century. Revisions to the law seem to patch rather than reinvent a model. Even if the FCC could break loose of its assumptions, the body stands amid what scholars have identified as a policy-making system of lawyers, lobbyists, industry and interests.

The FCC is a "creature of Congress" -- it holds the money that keeps the agency alive. Every FCC action is not only scrutinized by this branch of government, many are struck down following review by the courts. Then there is the White House and its control over the FCC chair and other commissioners.

Still, some interesting discussion surfaced at the FCC in the form of questions:

1. Is the U.S. ready for the economic impact of a pandemic or fear of one? Could broadband video conferencing mitigate the negative economic impact of a disaster? Is the infrastructure ready to allow millions to work or go to school from home, if needed?

2. Could the lawyer-driven FCC process and its jargon be simplified, so regular people may understand it and participate?

3. Can the FCC successfully modernize its staff and operations? Will new media lead to a demonstration of interactive, 21st Century democracy? Will the FCC listen to people outside the beltway through technologies such as Twitter?

4. Can the FCC synthesize its data, improve quality and reform licensing?

5. Can the government mandate a simple telephone bill that would actually allow us to know all charges and respond in the marketplace to make better choices? May consumers be empowered?

The FCC has a mixed track-record in its attempts over the years to be a positive influence. When people complained about cable billing and service problems in the early 1990s, the FCC was slow to respond. The FCC has never forced cable companies to break-up channel tiers and pricing, which would be a responsive marketplace model. And, it's not clear that remarkable Internet innovation and mobile media development was so much a product of the FCC as a market that took advantage of freedom and trailing regulators.

The FCC's plan for a National Broadband Plan seems too little and too late. While the government collects and analyzes data, the U.S, may fall behind other countries. Further, attempts to structure consumer protection rules will not guarantee anything. Consumers need media literacy education to make the best decisions.

Despite the interest among those in the area of energy, education and public safety in mobile media, the government is not offering its most important assistance: funding.

Instead the tired Democrat-Republican ideological 3-2 split on the FCC has not changed. Democrats continue to voice doubt in industry self-regulation, and Republicans place most of their faith in the marketplace.

I do not need another Notice of Inquiry to conclude that a lot of the existing rules do not make sense. Regulation has its costs, as does industry run amok.

An informed public might be activated to challenge confusing, long-term contracts, poor service, lack of choice and over-charges. However, in the end our system must give great deference to the power of the First Amendment, the right of property ownership and the historic and healthy skepticism about government.

content. The FCC's indecency regulatory regime, which has exhausted so much time, energy and money, can also be addessed with existing obscenity state case law.

The agency acknowledges it must "reboot" the FCC. Maybe it just needs a shut down.


Twitter the revolution

A summer of social networking

Attendance at the June, 2009 Edelman New Media Academic Summit in Washington, D.C. convinced me that social networking is advancing the importance of engagement.

My Twitter page, Aug. 23, 2009

The mass media 20th Century era of newspapers, radio and television emphasized one-way communication, but this new time is all about the computer-mediated communication (CMC) concepts of identity, interaction and community.

Enter my summer of discovery on Twitter and Facebook.

The 140-character world of the tweet is fascinating. I like the way that stories unfold on over time. For example, I began following Internet pioneer John Perry Barlow as he apparently was getting back on his feet:

johnperrybarlow I get out of rehab today. I hope I've been permanently habbed. Weird to dread leaving an alcoholic's Abu Graib.

Once out and about Barlow quickly became frustrated with Twitter and its brevity:

johnperrybarlow In the history of human expression, there has been no medium more ephemeral than Twitter. Genius lasts 10 minutes.

johnperrybarlow Enough. That was my swan-tweet. I'm going to learn to carve letters in stone. Which may breed real economy of thought.

Somewhere in the background was the role that Twitter users had played early in the summer in reporting and supporting the Iranian uprising. Supporters had shaded their Twitter photos green:

I'm sorry. One last tweet. We have been hugely self-congratulatory about Twitter and the Green Revolution.
We lost.

I was sad to see Barlow leaving Twitter and decided to engage him one night. Much to my pleasant surprise, he responded:

johnperrybarlow@JeremyHL Yeah. I'm starting to have second thoughts. Maybe I'll get over my bad self and slink on back.

And later he did:

johnperrybarlow I'm slinking back on Twitter. It appears that more of you were listening than I thought. Sorry for the tantrum.

Deggans Today show anchor sez more than 300,000 responses came in to its poll on Michele Obama's shorts. For some reason, this depresses me.BulldogReporter Angry Travelers Flock to Twitter with Airline Gripes: "United airlines, you are the bane of my existence," reads.. Okay, here's my photo of Helen Thomas' reaction when asked if she would join Twitter. A New York Times cover I did is now a book. (I did the cover photo) Ok... So, I guess I'm going to Hooters tomorrow after all. Smile.FvrythingPR My Forever Pet Peeves: Publicity=Public Relations.
Rick Murray
rickmurray May be the company I keep, but my facebook friends out-engage my Twitter followers 20:1


Caught up in the Web

By Julie Anderson


Bronson Riley realized not long ago that he and his wife were paying way more for cable television than they were getting out of it. They watched only a few shows each week.

At the time, he was reading a book on personal finance. It mentioned purchasing services “a la carte” rather than as a package.

The Lincoln resident knew that wasn’t an option for cable TV. So he cut the cord about two months ago, canceling his cable subscription. Now the couple watch what they want, when they want — online.

Andrea Riley watches “Desperate Housewives” at, which streams free full episodes of that and other popular shows such as “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” often the day after they air. The couple buy episodes of another favorite, “The Soup,” a revamp of “Talk Soup” on E! Entertainment Television, on Apple’s iTunes for $1.99 each with only a day’s wait.

Even paying for the handful of shows they can’t get free legally, Riley figures watching TV online saves money. The only thing they miss is flipping on CNN Headline News and the Weather Channel in the morning.

“It’s all getting to watch the TV shows you want to watch at a cheaper price, at your convenience,” he said.

In making the switch, the Rileys have joined a small but growing number of people who are tuning in online rather than over traditional network, cable or satellite pipelines. Some watch online occasionally to catch up on an episode they’ve missed or to track down old or obscure shows. Others, like the Rileys, watch online routinely.

Convenience, potential cost savings and the sheer availability of content through network sites such as and videocasting destinations such as Hulu, Fancast and others appear to be among the drivers.

It wouldn’t be possible without changes in technology, including the availability of inexpensive laptops, the advent of smart phones and the increase in high-speed and wireless Internet access. An April survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicates that some 63 percent of adult Americans now have broadband Internet access at home — the kind fast enough to handle video viewing. That’s an increase of 15 percent from just a year ago.

The major drawback, sports fans, is a dearth of access to, well, sports., a broadband network, delivers online live sports programming, but only through a participating provider. For now, that list doesn’t include Cox Communications in the Omaha area.

Without cable, Riley couldn’t watch the College World Series last month or the Tour de France. But since neither he nor his wife are big sports fans, it hasn’t been much of an issue. They just have to warn their sports-minded friends that they won’t be able to watch Husker games on cable at their house this fall.

It’s not clear how many people are watching online. But the Nielsen Co. reported in April that the number of Americans frequenting online video destinations had climbed 339 percent since 2003 and that time spent on video sites grew nearly 2,000 percent during that period. From February 2008 to February 2009 alone, viewers of online video grew 10 percent.

And those folks weren’t just watching short clips. While YouTube topped all other video sites in February 2009, the growth in the early part of 2009 centered on sites that offer longer videos, including network sites and Hulu. Launched in March 2008, Hulu offers programming from equity partners NBC Universal, News Corp. and Disney, as well as others.

Jeremy Lipschultz, a professor and director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication, said the trend is just starting.

“People are just figuring this out,” he said. “Once people figure out that all this content is out there, you’ll see a more dramatic shift.”

Bobby Tulsiani, a senior analyst with the market research firm Forrester Research, said it’s still tech types who are making the change. Two years from now, more people will be doing it.

Both Lipschultz and Tulsiani predict a continued blurring of lines between the television and computer.

“The computer is more interactive than television,” Lipschultz said. “We were imagining a more interactive television age as early as the 1980s, but it never materialized until the computer. Now you come to a point where everything is converging, where it’s hard to distinguish between what’s television and what’s computer.”

So will we lose those shared frames of reference we had when we all sat around watching the console in the corner?

Not so much, said Lipschultz. The availability of hundreds of cable and satellite channels fragmented viewership long before the computer. Exceptional events, such as the Super Bowl, continue to draw mass audiences. President Barack Obama’s election brought people together around the TV screen, but that audience was augmented by people following it — and discussing it — on laptops, Twitter and social networking sites. Lipschultz and others tweeted last week during Major League Baseball’s All Star Game.

“We might not all be sitting around the same screen,” Lipschultz said, “but we’re looking at a lot of the same media and we’re talking about it online instead of face to face.”

With such integration, Lipschultz said, media becomes less one-way and more multi-way.

“I think that’s the biggest shift, and the biggest advantage is it gives people a voice that they didn’t have in the traditional television age,” he said.

At the same time, the TV isn’t likely to disappear from American living rooms. According to Nielsen’s April report, the amount of time consumers spent watching TV continues to grow — now hitting 5.5 hours a day. Nor is there evidence that the Internet is taking away from TV use, the company reported.

Ann Shrewsbury, public affairs director for Time Warner Cable Nebraska, said their business trends nationwide show the same thing.

But Time Warner, which serves 17 communities in southeast Nebraska, including Lincoln, is making changes to respond to customers seeking to view in a variety of ways and on a variety of screens, from the 2-inch iPod to 52-inch TVs.

To keep up with demand for downloading bigger files such as TV programs or movies, Time Warner Cable in June launched a new product that gives customers a boost of speed as they download. The company also is providing more on-demand content that customers can play whenever they choose. Husker football programming, such as recruiting videos and full press conferences with coach Bo Pelini, has been a big hit.

Cox, too, has launched new on-demand options, including one that gives customers instant access to hit programs, said Kristen Gohr, manager of public affairs for the company in Omaha.

Both companies also are in various stages of exploring systems that would allow paying cable subscribers to access programming through PCs and mobile devices. Time Warner is expected to conduct a trial yet this summer; Cox is in talks.

But not all of those who choose to watch online are hunched over laptops or slumped in desk chairs.

Riley, 34, a tech hobbyist, built a computer in his basement dedicated to television and connected it to his 42-inch LCD TV. He sits on a couch to watch and uses a wireless keyboard to get online and pick a show.

Upstairs is a smaller flat-screen TV connected to Apple TV, a digital media receiver linked to iTunes that he figures also will pay for itself in cable savings. He stores the programming he buys on a media server he can access through any of his computers.

His only worry? That Internet providers might someday start charging users for heavy Web use.

Sam Golgert of Omaha connected his old computer to his big-screen TV after he got a new PC.

“At that point, I said, ‘I don’t need cable anymore,’” he said.

He’s no longer spending money on programming he doesn’t want. When he does watch TV, Golgert, 33, can usually find what he wants on Hulu. The only thing he consistently watches is “Family Guy.”

Overall, he’s found himself spending less time watching TV shows and more time watching movies. He’s purchased a few movies online, which stream to him for about the cost of a rental. He certainly hasn’t found himself bored watching less TV.

“I realized I had it on as background noise most of the time,” he said.

Contact the writer:



"Off the record"
I can tell you what I asked

As part of the Edelman New Media Academic Summit 2009, professors were treated to a private Newseum tour and dinner. The after dinner speaker was NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker -- named to the post last July following the death of Tim Russert. Whitaker is also senior vice president.

Mark Whitaker at the Newseum

At least some of us, even the public relations professors in the audience, were more than a little shocked when it was announced that the session would be "off the record." Those of us who are former journalists remember "off the record" to be something based upon a specific agreement between a reporter and a source. But this was Washington, D.C., and Beltway rules apply in a variety of settings.

So, while I will not report Whitaker's answer to this reporter's question, the probe was about the post-June 12 relationship betweeen network news and affiliated stations -- some are paying more attention now to their Web channels than the new digital broadcast channels.

Colleagues told me this was a timely question in light of the end of analog television this week. So, how can top news executives expect sources to stay on the record when they are not prepared to have their comments meet the light of day?


Federal digital TV conversion program more frustrating than helpful

Published Thursday April 30, 2009, Omaha World-Herald
Midlands Voices:
Federal digital TV conversion program more frustrating than helpful


The writer is a professor and director of the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication. He teaches media management and FCC regulation.

Following weeks of adjustments to my digital television converter box and two antennas, I have more questions than answers about the federal government’s TV Converter Box Coupon Program (online at, which offered $40 subsidies to upgrade analog sets to receive digital signals.

There is no doubt that this option offered people an inexpensive solution to the latest impending June 12 deadline for all analog signals to go dark. And a good-quality antenna with good positioning will compensate for some of the shortcomings. Still, it is clearly not the best way to experience the media digital revolution.

I was frustrated by inconsistent signal quality and the fact that a converter box does only what it offers — conversion, and not a true digital experience. It allows you to keep using your now outdated sets, but it falls short of helping us to understand why digital TV is worth the trouble. Finally, a converter box does not address the need for some of us to replace portable, battery-powered sets that are so valuable during Midwestern storms.

Undeterred, I went looking for a better solution and found it.

If you happen to have an Apple computer, you are most of the way toward achieving HDTV nirvana. I purchased the Elgato EyeTV hybrid tuner for Mac (PC users can find similar tuners), which plugs into the USB port of a laptop. The other end goes right into an antenna plug. This ran $149 at, and I found a RCA compact indoor antenna at my local drug store for about $11. The results were astounding.

From the exact same location in midtown that the converter so disappointed me, I immediately began receiving true high-definition quality video. I already had a nice computer sound system, so my home theater was complete.

Beyond enjoying digital television signals, the tuner also turned a laptop into a digital video recorder, which of course does not happen with converter boxes. The DVR acts much like a TiVo, including the ability to pause live television. An added bonus is a picture-in-picture feature that allows viewers to toggle between recordings and live TV.

In the event of a storm, assuming the television station signals can withstand it, I have a few hours of battery power to allow me to watch television weathercasters. There are, of course, other developments on this front.

Cellular telephones are rapidly becoming able to receive television signals, and it is likely that local stations will jump on the bandwagon in the near future. In fact, mobile media may come to replace much of what we think of as mass media today.

While the government converter box coupon program may have been politically expedient, I think it risks leading viewers down a dirt path that threatens to confuse people about all that is possible in the coming digital age.

We seem locked in a mind-set that views television as it was five or even 50 years ago. In an age when people are already viewing their favorite shows on and other sites, it is clear that the computer is the device that rules the digital age.

It remains to be seen what happens after the June 12 deadline passes. Once we all find solutions to the shift, maybe we can look ahead to the many possibilities.

Once we accept the idea that going digital means we are making a fundamental media shift away from a limited number of choices and toward nearly unlimited choices spread across the planet, then we begin to see how the transition will keep over-the-air broadcasters in the game but not guarantee success.

In a marketplace that includes user-created YouTube videos, independent media productions and low-cost barriers to entry, professional broadcasters more than ever must produce great content that people want to trade for their valuable time.

In this digital world, Omaha broadcasters and those in more than 200 media markets across the United States will be pushed to be local, innovative, creative, entertaining and talented. This has to be good for those of us watching.

Rocky Mountain News closes

Sad day for newspapers
Rocky Mountain News closes

Just shy of its 150th anniversary, one of Denver's newspapers has closed. A victim of declining circulation revenues and a poor economy, the Rocky was given little time by corporate owners to recover or be sold.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.


Newest broadcast indecency issue

If you seek Amy
Sanitizing the airwaves

In the latest attempt by the Parents Television Council to highlight broadcast indecency, the group called for a ban on radio airplay of "If You Seek Amy" because -- said rapidly -- children might hear the words as, spelling "Fuck Me." The idea is that the phrase can be heard as "F-U-C-K Me."

The controversy has drawn sharp lines in the blogosphere, as parents divide on use of language that children may be exposed to while listening to radio. Some parents and children, however, wrote that they did not hear the profanity in the song until it was pointed out in media by the PTC.

The song has made the Billboard Top 1oo chart and is receiving airplay around the country, according to Reuters.

Beyond the song title, the lyrics include the following: "All the boys and all the girls are begging to if you seek Amy," according to a music lyrics website.

Talking points: "This is a stretch," University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication Director Jeremy Lipschultz said. "If we now say that the phrase 'If you seek' belongs among words you cannot say on radio and television, where does this end?"

"By going after iterations of the F-word and dual-meanings, I think the moral crusaders weaken their shaken case that language should be restricted," Lipschultz said. "In a free society, we tolerate freedom of speech that we may not like -- especially in the absence of scientific evidence of harm to children.
Bleeping words
Golden Globe Awards face new problem

With NBC censors using time delay to drop audio on numerous fleeting expletives, the Golden Globe Awards program Jan. 11 had a new problem: fleeting bird flipping.

The incident was plainly visible late in the show --
it is shown here from my TiVo.

Director Darren Aronofsky was seen in a second cut-away shot during Mickey Rourke's acceptance speech flipping his middle finger.

The FCC told Scott Collins of the Los Angeles Times that the agency is reviewing the program.

The incidents come as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on a New York Court of Appeals decision that struck down FCC regulation of fleeting use of the F-word and S-word on previous Golden Globe Awards programs between 2002 and 2005.

The FCC told the Times it has 18 new complaints from the recent show.

Talking points: "We have no case law on gestures, such as flipping the bird," University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication Director Jeremy Lipschultz said. "It is probably a stretch to classify it under the FCC's sexual or excretory activities standards."