Social media tools are enjoying a heady run with seemingly more popping up on the scene every day. Every company/organization/celebrity under the sun is trying to get is to follow their data streams. There reaches a point though, when we sometimes need to say, “Enough is enough!”
Case in point: Recently I saw a Twitter post about a new automated storage facility being unveiled by the British Library. I followed the link to the story in the Yorkshire Evening Post, and I was pretty shocked by what I saw when I tried to read the article.
Newspapers are ad-supported. I get that. We all get that. Lots of websites are ad-supported as well. We all get it. In fact, most of us are probably pretty adept at just zooming in on the story and ignoring all of the surrounding
garbage stuff. It’s a little annoying when they insert ads in the body of the story and we have to dodge around them, but again, we’re kind of used to it. However, when they start disguising their little plugs as section headers within the story, it has gone too far.
As I read through through the story, the first two plugs were links to content elsewhere on the website. However, the next two were links to the paper’s Twitter and Facebook presence. I really didn’t need those masquerading as section headers within the story, especially when there is a handy-dandy social media box right below the story.
So you have some social media accounts, and you’re proud of them. Well and good. Just don’t shove them in our faces, please. I can find them in the little box . . . if I need them.
Last month brought a lot of hoopla over Facebook’s change to the terms of service agreements with users. (See references below for more reading.) Now it seems that Eastman Kodak Co. also has a change that has generated some user ire. According to a recent AP story, Kodak’s free online photo hosting service is no longer free. It sounds like Kodak is asking users to make a modest minimum purchase in order to keep using the storage services. Users who fail to do that risk having their photos deleted.
These two cases sound like they are at extreme ends of the spectrum. Kodak’s change sounds reasonable to me. They don’t want to just provide free storage for people who never make a purchase, so they’re asking customers to buy a few photos. On the other end, Facebook has essentially told its users that even if they delete their accounts, Facebook has the right to do what it wants to with their content forever. Can you imagine Facebook taking one of your photos and using it in an advertising campaign? Sounds like they have given themselves the right to do just that.
Now as I said, Kodak sounds reasonable, and Facebook sounds unreasonable. The thing that really surprises me though, is what people are getting upset about. From a lot of the reading I’ve done, people are not as upset about the new TOS as they are that the terms have changed at all. They somehow seem to think that they are entitled to non-changing usage agreements. Why? Yeah we pretty much get that when we buy a piece of software, but TOS agreements change OFTEN with SERVICES. Anyone still paying the same cable, electricity, telephone, or water rates they were 10 years ago? I doubt it. Economic condition changes, management conditions change, company goals change, and terms of service agreements change. How does the Internet generate this sense of entitlement that makes people think they should have a free ride forever, and that companies should never be allowed to alter their terms of service? You know most providers include that clause that says they can change TOS at any time. Or did you miss that? Interesting to note that enough people complained, and Facebook reversed the decision.
Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever."
Facebook Responds to Concerns Over Terms of Service
Consumers can be stuck when Web sites change terms
Facebook Reverts Back to Old Terms of Service
So what exactly happens when someone disappears from your social network and is never heard from again? Did they just move on to other activities? Or did they get mad at someone in the circle and write you all off? Or did they perhaps . . . die?
A recent AP story highlighted a few tales where the latter was actually the case. A person died, and relatives were left trying to make contacts with online friends to let them know what had happened. Seems like a few enterprising folks have found a new way to make money out of death. A couple of online services will take care of these after-death notifications for you so your friends won’t be left wondering.
For more information . . .
We just had a major newspaper announcement last week, and it looks like the Ann Arbor News is the latest victim. It sounds like the economy coupled with the new ways in which readers consume news are combining to really put the hurt on newspapers. The word is that the paper “will be replaced by a Web-focused community news operation.” Sounds kind of like that 150 citizen blogger approach we heard from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
It seems that in casting about for a way to survive, these organizations are really struggling to find models that work. According to the news story, Ann Arbor folks are saying that “the new free Web site won’t simply be the old newspaper delivered in a new format.” I can understand their need to try new things, but a community information portal simply isn’t the same thing as a newspaper, and that leads me to wonder who will provide balanced, accurate, insightful news – not just in Ann Arbor, but in all markets affected by changes like this.
My next question is about how we will be able to preserve the local history captured in these new community blog-o-portals. Libraries understand what it means to preserve newspapers in various formats: paper, microfilm, digital, etc. The Internet Archive knows what it means to preserve websites. But is there a natural fit here? Assuming that these new electronic news outlets contain content that should be preserved, can The Internet Archive capture these newspapers on a daily basis? If it can, perhaps that will be enough for casual users and serious researchers. But if it can’t?
It was announced yesterday that today’s edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be the final print version of this 146-year-old paper. One can’t help reading the story without hearing the “Print is dead” cries echoing in one’s ears. Amidst all the talk about new business models and transitioning to a new online format, I can’t help thinking that “20 news gatherers and Web producers,” “20 newly hired advertising sales staff,” and “150 citizen bloggers” will never be able to cover the news like an experienced news staff.
We know that the Kindle can deliver content from major U.S. newspapers. Is the SPI “major” enough to merit some Kindle attention? Even if does, you still won’t be able to read it on the plane during takeoff and landing. And therein lies part of my concern with the whole “print is dead” movement. Now don’t get me wrong – I like electronic books. I’ve been through many, and I have about 50 on my Palm Treo now. But there are some places/times where/when my device is not allowed. Beyond that, traditional print books and newspapers never need to be recharged, they never need a network connection, and they never have to be migrated to a new hardware/software platform. I can easily loan my print book to a friend, but I’m certainly not going to loan them my Treo!
I hope that the various facets of the publishing industry can find a comfortable balance before the pendulum swings too far.
(For the record, I first read this story on my Palm Treo when it was delivered through Pocket Express. I read follow-up material on various web sites.)
Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday
Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints final edition in online transition
First big US newspaper goes web only
This one is over a month old, but I just happened across it: Congressman twitters secret trip to Iraq. Apparently all this social networking stuff is not always a good thing. And this was from the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Whoopsie!