Monday, November 20, 2006

NEA policy paper on Classical Music Listenership

A new NEA report, "Airing Questions of Access: Classical Music Radio Programming & Listening Trends" addresses access to classical radio. The report examines key classical radio characteristics, including trends in station counts and listening hours, as well as the finances of classical radio.

For several decades now, the distribution of classical music in the U.S. has been closely linked with public radio programming, whether through broadcasts of live concerts or studio recordings. A 2002 study found that most classical music listeners access the art primarily through radio, suggesting that the medium is critical to long-term audience development, particularly for live classical concerts. Yet the rise of news/talk radio formats since the mid-1990s has challenged classical music’s preeminence on public radio. This document offers a platform for extended research on the subject.

As a sector, classical music radio is dynamic and adaptive but in short supply of consistent, accurate data. The Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau do not enumerate radio listeners or stations by format. Industry data sources can be irregular or even incorrect. Further complicating any analysis of classical radio are distinctions between commercial and public radio and the “dual format” of classical music and news so common at public stations.

MIT Communication Forum

Three programs are worth highlighting from MIT's Communication Forum under the umbrella theme “Will Newspapers Survive?” The series is designed to address the ongoing transformation and apparent decline of American newspapers. Weighing in on the subject are working journalists, media critics and scholars, and digital "visionaries." Topics to be addressed: the aging of the newspaper reader, the emergence of citizens' media and the blogosphere, the fate of local news and the local newspaper, and news and information in the networked future. Programs in the series are: The Emergence of Citizens' Media; News, Information and the Wealth of Networks; and Why Newspapers Matter. Each can be viewed in full at the MITWorld site above.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Advertising Age's Search Marketing Fact Pack 2006

Advertising Age's handy Fact Packs have become staples in my cache of media industry data. You may be familiar with their Advertising & Marketing Fact Packs and more recently the Hispanic Fact Pack (Annual Guide to Hispanic Advertising & Marketing), but now there's a new one: Search Marketing Fact Pack 2006 , 52 pages of data about search-engine marketing. Since about 80% of internet traffic begins at a search engine according to Harris Interactive, no wonder Advertising Age has compiled its first comprehensive Fact Pack devoted to search marketing. The Fact Pack provides data on search engines, sites, and keywords (for instance: a table of top search terms driving traffic to Youtube.com posts "steve irwin death video" at number 1). I take great heart from something I observed in a table of the top 50 (non-porn) searches. Hitwise reports that for four weeks in September 2006, along with the usual suspects of Myspace at number 1 and Ebay, Yahoo and Mapquest close behind, "lyrics" comes in at number 13. I read this as the the culture's underrated interest in poetry (since that's what lyrics are, good or bad). Searches for 'lyrics" are above Walmart and Bank of America and even match. com. "To say you can turn off television is arrogance," George Gerbner said in 1990. "People would rather stop breathing than stop storytelling." And right up there with storytelling is our need for (as revealed by what we search for) the lyrical!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Communication and Mourning

Two articles in the recent literature: "Remembrance of the Future": Derrida on Mourning, by Joan Kirkby, in SOCIAL SEMIOTICS (Volume 16, Number 3, September 2006) which is devoted entirely to Derrida. And in CONTINUUM: JOURNAL OF MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES (Volume 20, Number 3, September 2006) Adi Drori-Avraham authors September 11th and the Mourning After: Media Narrating Grief. Just for fun, I checked the references of each to find they have only one in common: Freud's On Metapsychology, Volume II of The Theory of Psychoanalysis, which includes "On Mourning and Melancholia."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pew Online Health Report 2006

Just out, The Pew Internet & American Life Project's latest report: Online Health Search 2006. Written by the Project's Associate Director, Susannah Fox, the Report is based on a telephone survey of 2,928 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted August 1-31, 2006.

The report includes some of these key findings as reported in the site's press release: Eighty percent of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. Most internet users start at a general search engine when researching health and medical advice online. Just 15% of health seekers say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do so “most of the time.” Fully three-quarters of health seekers say they check the source and date “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never,” which translates to about 85 million Americans gathering health advice online without consistently examining the quality indicators of the information they find. Most health seekers are pleased about what they find online, but some are frustrated or confused.

This 22-page report can be read in full at the site. A pdf of the questionnaire is also available. Other reports on blogging, Web 2.0 technology, home broadband adoption, among others are also available.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere

Last March I had the privilege of attending a meeting in Washington DC to explore the formation of the Media and Communications Policy Data Consortium, an initiative of the Social Science Research Council to facilitate and expand access to a wide range of commercial and non-commercial data sets that frequently are used in media research, policymaking, and advocacy. The Data Consortium is part of a larger project of the SSRC entitled Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere whose ambitious goals are both idealistic and practical. Projects launched in 2006 include the establishment of a website (the Media Research Hub) for researchers and activists. The site will host a searchable, community-updated researcher index, online project brokering, a community-filtered resource database, a collaborative grants portal, a data consortium portal, and a conference alliance portal. (It is not quite launched yet but they're getting close.) Additionally it will host a collaborative grants program and the Data Consortium to facilitate the sharing and evaluation of commercial data (both U.S. and international), obscure or neglected public data, and orphaned data sets.

Led by Joe Karaganis of SSRC, the Data Consortium meeting was comprised of folks from the Center for Public Integrity, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, Consumer Project on Technology, and the Future of Music Coalition, as well as a few academics--researchers, students, professors and a librarian. After agreeing on our purpose (that "public policy should be made with publicly available data") we spent a long time discussing the requirements and benefits of consortium membership and our potential constituency--academic departments and schools, associations, research centers, think tanks, advocacy organizations, and libraries--and how to reach out to them.

The Data Consortium has just been booked for a June 24 presentation of its progress at the American Library Association in Washington DC. It should be one of the more interesting programs at the conference.

Those interested in learning more about the current state of the media data access landscape, the unevenness of the playing field and solutions for grading it, should contact Philip Napoli, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Business, Fordham University, for a copy of his soon to be published paper "Necessary Knowledge for Communications Policy: Information Inequalities and Commercial Data Access and Usage in the Policymaking Process" (forthcoming, Federal Communications Law Journal).

ABSTRACT of Napoli paper:
Communications policymaking increasingly relies upon large-scale databases manufactured and marketed by commercial organizations. Data providers such as BIA Research, Nielsen Media Research, and Arbitron play a vital role in aggregating the data that policymakers, policy analysts, and policy advocates rely upon in policy deliberations. In many ways, these data providers supplement the limited data gathering capacity of government bodies such as the FCC and NTIA and thereby help to bring a greater quantity of relevant data to bear on policy issues than would otherwise be possible. Indeed, these data are utilized extensively by stakeholders with an interest in policy outcomes to conduct and submit studies that policymakers rely upon in their deliberations (often in lieu of conducting such research on their own).

One unfortunate byproduct of this situation, however, is that, to the increasing extent that the data relied upon in policymaking, policy analysis, and policy advocacy are provided by commercial organizations, substantial inequalities in access to these data inevitably arise. Specifically, significant actors in the policymaking process, such as academic researchers and public interest organizations, lack the financial resources of communications firms and industry associations to gain access to the data that are vital to conducting thorough, reliable, and persuasive policy research. Policymakers themselves often find their research objectives inhibited by the enormous expense associated with the relevant large-scale commercial datasets, and thus find themselves increasingly reliant upon the analyses conducted by those stakeholder groups with the resources necessary to gain access to such data. As a result of these information asymmetries, policy decision-making is likely to suffer, as the research inputs inevitably fail to reflect the full range of considerations across the full range of interested stakeholders. This article illustrates these issues via a case study of the FCC's 2003 media ownership proceeding and offers suggestions for how the existing disparities in access to policy-relevant data might be addressed.

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