BoyDog Design
Design and more…

I continue to monitor the changing nature of our media. As a designer it’s important to stay on top of trends in design and production. More important – on a personal level – I try to source information about changing standards and practices. Lately I’ve pointed my attention to news – particularly the way it’s collected, processed, and distributed for public consumption. I’ve been trying to notice shifts in ethics, validity, and attachment to special interests. It’s a personal obsession at the moment…

I just came across this article by Edward Wasserman, published in The Miami Herald today. If you have any interest in who is writing the news, I recommend taking some time to read this. Form your own conclusions. Do your own research on the topic. I offer this link as another source of information.

Special interests write `news’

A recent post on FishbowlNY (“FishbowlNY Readers Respond: What You’ll Pay For”, 12/29/09, explores responder’s views on paying for online content. As someone who has struggled on a personal and professional level with the virtues of print versus digital sources of information I find the results of their poll in line with my own preferences. However, the more I think about this I realize that perhaps I am not evaluating the benefits and flaws of both media in a totally balanced manner.

Like most of you, I come from a predominantly print background. I learn by reading books. I acquire information about current events or areas of interest via magazines, both subscribed to and purchased based on need/want. I was educated in design and how to apply that knowledge to a print medium. Flash forward and I have had to re-educate myself to know how to utilize the vast amount of information and ideas that are readily available online. Professionally I have had to acquire the skills and knowledge that allows me to successfully navigate, filter, and utilize the tools needed to provide online content and to determine legitimate and worthy content from irrelevant fluff, spin, and misinformation.

It just occurred to me that perhaps I’ve been too swift in coming to the conclusion that I prefer receiving my information via a digital source versus a print one. I’ll use newspapers as my example. I’ve been a regular reader of newspapers. Before the advent of instant info via the web, I was happy to glean the facts about local, state, national and world news from my hometown paper. Whatever wasn’t covered in print would surely show up on the daily news on television. How simple life used to be… With the breadth of a tsunami wave online content has taken over as the main distribution channel for news. I can’t say I was adverse to the thought. I happily awaited the time when I could sit down in front of my computer and peruse the news of the day, research for information, and eventually have the ability to participate on a personal level with the addition of access to online content. At that point it seemed that the circle was complete. I could see what was going in, I could pull out what I wanted, and I could add to that circle of information at will. What a perfect setup!

Time passed and I began to realize that some of the information I was reading in the newspaper was “old news”. Why should I care to take the time to read about an event that was already covered online? How could the newspaper expand on what I thought I already knew? Little by little the articles started to shrink in size. The pages were being filled up more and more by ads for local businesses and the like. That’s perfectly o.k. if you have a need for that info, but for me, it started to look more like “fill” and less like substance. I will admit I became disinterested in the newspaper. It “didn’t get it” anymore… My days of relaxing and reading the paper were numbered.

Not to be left behind in the dust cloud of the progression to digital format I readily accepted the challenge. What I hadn’t prepared for was the volume of information at my fingertips. Literally at my fingertips. With a few key strokes I could access information from virtually anywhere in the world. I could zero in on commentary that matched my point of view. I could choose to disregard anything I deemed inappropriate, inaccurate or irrelevant to my needs. It didn’t take long to realize that I had not considered the amount of time and attention this channel of information required. Now, I had to source the media outlet I would choose to receive the latest info. Now, I had to sift through volumes of online pages and determine if I found the “facts” to be just that, factual or fiction. Now, I had to scutinize the source of information to determine who the messenger really was and did they have any particular point of view or allegiance that put a spin on their material. Of course, that scrutiny applies to printed material too. Perhaps I’m naive, but I think it’s easier to hide your true allegiances online.

At this point the flow of information appears limitless. As long as you leave the faucet open there will be a continuous flow of whatever you choose to tap into. How could this be a bad thing? In and of itself online content appears to be no detriment to society. I actually hope it develops into a trustworthy, reliable, accurate, unbiased, and predominantly positive source of information. I am in no way knocking its current and potential benefits. I do, however, wish to step back from my previous line of thought that I had to choose between print or digital – one OR the other. After more consideration I am inclined to reverse my intention to drop printed media in favor of online. Perhaps it’s too soon to jump ship. Instead I think I might paddle back to printed media if for nothing else but to balance my sources. Traditional printed media has been honed from years of service to the public to offer reliable, documented, timely, unbiased, and easily verifiable news. At least that is the presumption. Until the time comes when I can know with certainty that online content follows the same parameters in the presentation of information as print, I will continue to access whatever is offered but with a degree of increased scrutiny. Online content is our present. It is our future. Until I know it adheres to the ethical legacy of print media I think I will be splitting my attention between print and digital media. As the pendulum swings I know that eventually I will be saying goodbye to the print world I’ve come to know and respect. I hope that time doesn’t arrive too soon. Online content deserves the time required to incubate and develop into the potentially premium source of information we all hope for.

Interesting article. Thanks to

Give Them What They Want – Eliminate What They Don’t Want

Crowdsourcing – what is it? Basically, it’s the appropriation of opinion from a large group of people, with or without a background in the topic being focused on, with the intent of creating a consensus as to the solution to a specific problem or task. The term was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 article written for Wired magazine. Its application can be applied to business practices, but for now I am contemplating its use/misuse and potential benefits and long-range damage to media content. Advertising, news, commentary, etc.

I’m all for a group effort in finding a solution to a problem. Everyone has their chance to offer their ideas and as a group you have the opportunity to create a new product, solve a task, or develop a new procedure. I was involved in this type of group effort when I worked in a manufacturing industry. Groups were put together to address various “problems”. There was an Increased Output Team, a Cycle Time Reduction Team, and a Quality Improvement Team. Everyone had a base knowledge and background that enabled them to participate and ultimately solve their team’s specific task.

Crowdsourcing on the other hand puts together a large group of people without assessing their knowledge base and background for the purpose of finding a solution to a proposed task. In this context I am having some difficulty finding value to the process. Particularly when the outcome of crowdsourcing results in advertising, editorial, and deciding what is newsworthy. I admit I’m a newbie to this concept, but I already see the potential for a negative impact down the road.

Everyone wants to save a buck. So I can fully understand a company trying to find an economically beneficial solution to their marketing/advertising objectives. What can they do? Well, they can come up with contests that offer a prize for the winning advertisement for their product. Get as many people as they can to send in ideas and they pick the winner. Let’s go one better, offer a prize to the person who can pick the winner. The idea being that the crowd will ultimately know what it likes and deliver the right message and eliminate what it doesn’t want to know/hear/see. Sorry, just the thought of this process being considered a legitimate way to solve one’s advertising objectives makes me very sad.

There was a time when unsolicited ideas sent in to a company or agency were never opened. Never considered. Now, you’re telling me that you are willing to review material sent in by anyone. There was a time when you had to have some background in your field in order to be considered worthy of offering an opinion. Worthy of review. Anyone who trotted all over town with their portfolio after college knows exactly what I’m talking about. So now I’m to understand that for the purpose of saving money companies choose to not utilize the talents of the truly talented (and educated) and the universe would prefer to consider the offerings of anyone with a pulse.

I read every day about the changes in journalism. The advent of instant media seems to be stampeding over the conventions of journalistic output. Faster is better. Cheaper is better. Being noticed is more important than being accurate, balanced, and providing full disclosure. I’m not saying online journalism is corrupt or flawed to the point of┬ábeing a bane to society. I am considering how its evolution may deteriorate into a worthless pulpit that provides the public with what they want to hear and not necessarily what they need to know. I hope a balanced approach to the dissemination of information will always be the benchmark of the integrity we hope for in our news outlets.

What happens then when in order to prop up sales the media decides to give the public what they want? Do you want random groups of people responding to questions about media deciding what is considered newsworthy? Could that be a potential result of crowdsourcing the news?

What if there were a predominant sentiment in editorial submissions? Would that sentiment become the ultimate solution? How would you know that was the predominant sentiment? Who decides? Can the use of crowdsourcing truly provide the answer in an editorial format? Who is moderating the discussion? Is it even a discussion anymore?

These are some of the things that have been rattling around in my head lately. While I can see the benefits of a group consensus when that group is qualified to be considered a worthy source to tap into, I still can’t see how a random group of people processing information – with all of their biases and personal objectives – could be the best way to put together an advertising campaign. I don’t understand how the potential elimination of information (due to a random group’s interests being focused on some of the information and not all of it) could possibly offer me news that is fully fashioned, properly vetted, without commentary, and without the inclusion of an unbalanced agenda.

No answers here – just some thoughtful consideration… I will continue to seek out factual data that will enable me to come to some conclusions about crowdsourcing. For now, I wait, I watch, I read, and I scrutinize the media that comes my way. I guess I could do a little crowdsourcing myself right now. I’d like to hear from you – any and all of you . What impact will crowdsourcing have on advertising, news, and commentary?