This week in 2.0 Web news

Welcome to Alex-filtered news, the first edition of a new feature I hope to write on a (semi-) regular basis.  This is mainly for my friends and MBA colleagues who are interested in social media news but aren’t nerdy enough to read it as much as I do.  So here’s a recap of the stories I found to be of interest this week – enjoy.


Michael Jackson’s death breaks the internet

You probably heard about the passing of the King of Pop this week.  And when you heard the news, you probably rushed straight to Twitter or Google to verify the rumours, right?  So did the rest of the world. 

You shouldn’t be surprised to hear, then, that Michael Jackson’s death sparked a sudden and unheard-of rush of traffic to social media and news sites on Thursday evening  According to Mashable, MJ-related topics accounted for over 30% of Tweets at his Thursday night peak.  Twitter’s server went down a few times, unable to handle the overwhelming volume.

But Twitter wasn’t the only site brought down by MJ’s death, as the LA Times’ breaking update over Jackson’s coma caused a rush of traffic that crashed their own server as well.  Even Google struggled to deal with the flash traffic amid all the “MJ dead?” searches, which was so sudden and heavy that their news section interpreted the rush as an automated attack. 

We’ve seen a lot of buzz over Iran’s Twitter-takeover recently, but it seems that even in this medium pop culture dominates all.


 Mobile video about to hit a tipping point

With the launch of the iPhone 3G, Mashable is predicting that mobile video is finally hitting its tipping point.  Mobile photos, they write, have already become pervasive because so many phones come with basic cameras.  Now, we’re increasingly seeing mobile devices able to capture video, and with integration to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, it only makes sense that instantaneous video uploads will soon become the norm.

I blogged previously about YouTube bleeding cash, theorizing that an increase in videos on their servers only raises costs (bandwidth and other server expenses) without adding revenue (most videos have little value to advertisers).  Sounds odd, right?  For most businesses, a huge boost to services would mean revenue increases.  In this case, however, it just raises costs, allowing YouTube to lose even more money. 

Instead of growing revenue streams, YouTube has found a business model that turns increased usage into cost streams.  Google might want to turn that around at some point.


One month in, how is Bing doing?

In case you missed it, Microsoft launched their search engine, Bing, on May 30th.  Since then, they’ve been on a complete marketing blitz; Advertising Age reported that Microsoft is spending $80-100 million on the launch campaign (significantly more than the $25 million that Google spend on total advertising last year). 

So how have they done?  A recent TechCrunch blog reported on a focus group study(*small sample size warning) demonstrating strong preference for Bing. Mashable, on June 17th, reported some early numbers that showed healthy growth for the new search engine (about 16% of daily searcher penetration).

Realistically, it’s far too early to judge Bing’s success.  Stealing some market share from Google in their first month is impressive, sure, but it’s hard to tell whether these users will permanently switch over to Bing.  It seems to be close to on par with Google in terms of search result relevancy, at least based on my visits so far.  This is impressive, and bodes well for Microsoft, but they still face an uphill battle.  Google’s brand is a force to be reckoned with, and getting users to switch from the engine they’ve used exclusively for years will be one hell of a challenge.


Acclaimed author Chris Anderson busted for plagiarism

As a former TA who lost his mind trying to teach citation to first-year students, I found this story to be of particular interest.  Earlier this week, Chris Anderson, best-selling author of The Long Tail, editor of Wired magazine and superstar in the Web2.0-nerd community was exposed for plagiarizing sections of his forthcoming book, Free!. 

The story first broke in the Virgina Quarterly Review, with examples given on this blog.  There’s four examples here that show, more than anything, extreme laziness on the part of Anderson.  Many authors repurpose from other sources, but the mere changing of a few words, without proper citation of original sources, is inexcusable.  Check for yourself.

For what it’s worth, Anderson provided a written defence on his own blog site, explaining that his team couldn’t agree on a citation format for Wikipedia articles and promising to correct the errors in upcoming versions.  The explanation is lacking, as Anderson doesn’t answer all of the accusations.  If you want some fun reading, visit VQR Online to view Anderson’s comments, where he provides an angry defence, even launching a personal attack against one of his accusors.

University students, rejoice:  You aren’t the only ones making innapropriate use of Wikipedia and failing to cite your sources.


Study finds CEOs largely disconnected from social media (and in effect, their customers)

I came across this article from Reuters on Thursday and was left shaking my head.  There isn’t a single Fortune 100 CEO blogging, only 2 have Twitter accounts and only 13 have a LinkedIn account.  To quote the article, “It’s shocking that the top CEOs can appear to be so disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They’re giving the impression that they’re disconnected, disengaged and disinterested,” said Sharon Barclay, editor at who runs executive PR firm Blue Trumpet Group.

Something’s gotta give.  Will the companies get with it, or will we see a major changing of the guard over the next few years?


Optimism for Toronto sports fans?

Time for a Toronto-based sports tidbit.  After getting drafted by the Raptors Thursday night, DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) tweeted “Toronto here I come.  Air Canadas back.”  As Raps fans know, AC was Vince Carter’s nickname back when he ruled our sports community.  Maybe passing on the nickname to a new star will help wash away the still-present bitterness felt towards VC… naw, probably not.

And how about them Jays?  They lose all 5 starting pitchers to the DL, suffer through a 9-game losing streak and they finish off June only 1.5 games out of the playoffs?  Wow.


Funniest video I found this week

From The Onion,  “Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan”.  3 minutes or so in length, and I’ll go ahead and call it a “must-watch”.  No more elaboration needed, just trust me, it’s hilarious.


Must-read film review

I tend to be a bit of a film snob, and absolutely hate bad movies, regardless of genre.  Although I haven’t seen it, I’ve been told that Transformers 2 is terrible, so the only pleasure I’ll get from it is probably the humour I can pull out of scathing reviews.  Thankfully, Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian has given me just that, calling Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen  “at once loud and boring, like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan.”


Best read on the Web this week

In an exerpt from his upcoming book, Say Everything:  How Blogging Began, What it’s Becoming and Why it Matters, Scott Rosenberg details the history of journalists versus bloggers.  Rosenberg gives us the history of blogging within the context of journalism, detailing the adversarial relationship that developed between the two, and how blogging has completely disrupted the journalism industry. 

Sit down for 20 minutes and give this your attention, it’s well worth it.


That’s all for now.




Iran: “The First Revolution Catapulted and Transformed by Social Media”

Not my words – this is coming from Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, one of the best books I’ve read over the past year.   I’ve clipped a quote from a recent Q&A he did for TED (full link below):

What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now?
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

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Iran as the First Internet Uprising


From @GregMitch on Twitter:  Brian Williams just now asks Richard Engel, back from Iran: “Is this the first Internet uprising?” Engel: “Yes.”

(Engel is NBC’s Chief Foreign Correspondent).

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Getting the News out of Iran, on Twitter

What’s my sweetspot for news?  Where foreign affairs meets Web 2.0.  And there’s a great one today – Iranian protesters using Twitter to get updates out to the world.

Here’s a link to the top citizen-reporters on Twitter, which is absolutely a-flutter (lame pun, excuse me) with #IranElection updates.  Once again, if you aren’t on Twitter, shame on you.

The Atlantic’s Daily Dish blog is doing a great job of posting updates as they come in.  

Ahmadenijad’s forces are doing all they can to shut down social media communication channels; Facebook and YouTube have both been blocked in Tehran.

Kudos to the major news sites (such as The Atlantic) who are leveraging these channels to spread the information.


UPDATE:  Just came across a great NY Times article – Real Time Criticism of CNN’s Iran Coverage.  Seems the Twittersphere was unhappy with CNN’s lack of coverage on the Iran situation.  Here’s a block quote from the article:

Untold thousands used the label “CNNfail” on Twitter to vent their frustrations. Steve LaBate, an Atlanta resident, said on Twitter, “Why aren’t you covering this with everything you’ve got?” About the same time, CNN was showing a repeat of Larry King’s interview of the stars of the “American Chopper” show. For a time, new criticisms were being added on Twitter at least once a second.

Andrew Sullivan, a blogger for The Atlantic, wrote, “There’s a reason the MSM is in trouble,” using the blogosphere abbreviation for mainstream media.

I’m not going to enter into a debate on Twitter/socialmedia vs. MSM, since I don’t believe it’s a one-versus-the-other battle.  But seeing Twitter’s citizen reporters/watchdogs play a role and actually influence mainstream media coverage?  This I like.  Integrating socialmedia into MSM makes sense to me.


UPDATE 2:  I just came across this Tweet, from @persiankiwi: I am accessing twitter from Port:80 in tehran. you can avoid gov filters from here. spread. #Iranelection

Since Ahmadinejad has been trying to block Twitter users and other citizen-reporters from spreading news about the post-election protests and clashes, @PersianKiwi is one of many Twitter users working hard to get around the censors and continue reporting (via Twitter).

I’ll stop updating at this point, but I hope that more MSM attention gets directed towards the role that socialmedia has played over the past two days in Iran.  Let’s start realizing the true potential of these tools.

If you want to follow for yourself, here’s one final source:  Global Voices has some great citizen-reporter coverage, including YouTube videos, here.

Here’s one such video:


UPDATE 3:  Alright, one more, just because it’s that good. 

Here’s a BBC article titled “Internet Brings Events in Iran to Life”, which details how the main socialmedia outlets have been breaking the news.  Scroll through, there’s tons of great content.

All of this has me thinking about a recent article I read, wherein Malcolm Gladwell stated that “you can’t start blogging at 23 and call yourself a journalist.”  Two points on this.  1)  Damnit.  2) Why not?

A Note to my Readers (both of you), and the Future of News

After a one-month hiatus from blogging, expect to see a site re-work and new content on over the next few weeks.  I’ve been busy getting back into MBA-mode recently, as well as working on my new consulting project at

There are more blogs coming, but in the meantime, here’s a few things to keep you occupied:

I recently read What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis (2009) and Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (2008).  Highly recommend both.  Put them on your reading list.

I’ve also been less frequent on Twitter, another casualty of getting busy with side projects (the fact that I’m no longer working in research full-time also hampers my content production).  If you’re on Twitter, make sure you’re following @matthewi, @jayrosen_nyu and @NiemanLab.  I’ve been reading a lot about the future of publishing lately, and those three are the experts, very stimulating stuff.  If you aren’t on Twitter, shame on you.

And now, a mini-blog to make up for my recent absence:


The Future of News?

A lot of mainstream attention has recently been granted to the decline of newspapers.  I think that what we’re seeing is a major paradigm shift, with the news and media industries about to face a major overhaul.  So how can major news sources adapt?

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