Video wars, information warfare

Call it my inability to abandon my breaking news background as a former TV journalist.  But I’m enamored with the notion of a “news peg” to galvanize attention around a particular issue.

Our MCDM program did it with Wikileaks in December with “Open Secrets” and the news gods have smiled upon us again, ahead of our conversation tonight “Who Owns the Pipes?” as it relates to content creation and net neutrality.  That’s because the federal government just gave its blessing to the Comcast/NBC merger.  We delved  deeply into what this ruling means for content creators as lines are drawn around control and regulation of the Internet.  Indeed, framing the issue this way struck to the heart of net neutrality, as ISP’s might content that it’s online video that strains their infrastructure the most.  And if we’re talking about “transmedia” storytelling, access to the internet via cellphones to access this bandwidth-heavy content begs a whole other set of questions.  That’s why the FCC created a mobile broadband exception in its December 2010 net neutrality rules.

News pegs make even more sense today as we all battle for each other’s attention.  We’re caught in an interesting paradox that as the explosion in digital communication technology facilitates the promulgation of new voices, we’re also losing our ability to listen — because there are so many voices.  So what’s going to grab people??

Obviously, we’ve focused our entire graduate program around creating trust and persuasion in other to communicate and transact in the 21st century (especially when framed as a story).  But digital media is just a part of an overall strategy to win hearts and minds.  This recent New York Times article refers to it as the “information wars”:

For Mr. Maldonado, who said that “the information wars are won before work,” that means rising early to browse all of the major newspapers, new polling data, ideological Web sites and dozens of news alerts needed to equip his bosses with the best, most up-to-date nuggets.

“Our executives walk into meetings and they’re doing battles, whether it’s on health care or cap and trade, and information is power, and my job is to make sure they’re armed with the most powerful information,” he said. “It’s reading the 1,000 stories in the papers and Hill rags, and finding that one needle in the haystack that’s going to matter.”

But to me, it’s not about using information to wage war.  Rather, I believe that the digital revolution has pitted information against itself — and the strongest ideas prevail only due to those who have the strongest communication strategies.  I finally grasped this when reading Atlantic Magazine’s profile of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell:

McConnell nevertheless manipulates the press masterfully, using methods that are head-smackingly obvious and yet still elude most politicians. He knows exactly what he wants to say, repeats it with emphasis, then stops. He will not be drawn out, and has no compunction about refusing questions. He would never make Boehner’s mistake, because he won’t entertain hypotheticals. “We don’t issue a whole lot of currency,” his spokesman says. What McConnell does say makes news.

At the press conference, reporters jockeyed to throw him off message and extract some further bit that might drive the story forward. His unvarying reply when asked about Boehner was: “It does not make sense to raise taxes in a recession,” a phrase he uttered nine times in barely as many minutes. The effect was like watching a swarm of mosquitoes encounter a bug zapper. After he wrapped up the proceedings, the reporters broke their huddle and scurried to button­hole individual senators. McConnell ignored them and walked off. The story soon dried up. No vote took place. And the elections were, as McConnell intended them to be, an unadulterated referendum on President Obama.

We’re inundated by ideas, messages, creeds, sales pitches, visions — a veritable jungle of information.  Does it not make sense then that a Darwinistic “survival of the fittest” is descending upon this wildest of ecosystems?  And as such we should use whatever tools and tactics that will throw our tidbit of communication to the top of the heap?

So how do I apply this philosophy specifically to my own communication endeavor?  As Director of the Master of Communication of Digital Media, my objective is to persuade the world that we offer a high-value graduate degree — and that we’re the best at what we do.  Yes, we could buy advertising and publish swanky brochures.  Sounds like an expensive way to lose the war.

Rather, my strategy has been to place the MCDM at the heart of our region’s media and technology community.  We started with regular events (face-to-face information sharing gatherings hold great currency in the digital age), culminating in the hugely successful TEDx Seattle last year.  Now we have Media Space TV (which, compared to its YouTube counterpart’s somewhat anemic views, is building far more attention capital through its blockbuster ratings) feeding into our new Four Peaks franchise (monthly salons and a fall summit).  We’re convening community, sharing our expertise, and soliciting the expertise and creativity of others.  In doing so, we’re engaging our constituents in a much larger vision.  It’s ambitious.  It’s epic.  But in this age of easy, disposable communication, it just may stick.


  1. On my way home from the Four Peaks salon last night I started to worry. The long-term decision for the FCC to allow corporations the ability to control mobile broadband was an unbelievably bad mistake.

    It won’t only give control to major corporations on what can be prioritized on mobile networks that have “limited mobile bandwidth”; it will give them control of the future of the Internet.

    When AT&T & Verizon bought the 700 MHz wireless spectrum at auction in 2008, they were planning for the future. The mobile consumption of broadband will continue to increase until it becomes the standard form of bandwidth consumption.

    It is speculated that AT&T & Verizon will use the 700 MHz spectrum to offer faster wireless Internet. Google tried to purchase the spectrum to create an open Internet, but couldn’t raise the funds that the other companies did.

    Instead of an open Internet, AT&T & Verizon will have the ability to offer faster mobile Internet, and control it too.

    Unless laws are changed, we are now witnessing the end of the open Internet.

    1. Thanks so much for bringing this up Evan. I get nervous when corporations are given too much freedom. But the question is, should internet access be a right? A basic utility? In that case, shouldn’t it be regulated by states and cities? But where does the funding come from? Tax dollars? Yeah, right. How about a hybrid partnership with for-profit companies?

      At the risk of contradicting myself, I was also wondering if anyone else questioned the growing Comcast monopoly (and I do mean monopoly). Political affiliations and Parker Brothers game playing history aside, I can’t help but feel that this merger is a smoke screen of ‘improved access’ at the expense of freedom, choice, capitalism and the like. (Dang it, I’m all over the map. Does this mean I’m a Libertarian or something?)

      And to comment on a different part of Hanson’s entry, the bit about ‘information wars’ has been true in my experience. The more I read, and the more informed I am on trends, the more I’m looked to as a resource by senior leadership. On that note, I’ve found it pretty valuable to subscribe to

  2. I found the salon fascinating last night. The panel was smart, articulate and often funny. I could also say the same for the audience. Panelist John du Pre Gauntt (I think) said that the NBC/Comcast deal didn’t make a blip on Wall Street. Their stock basically remained flat. These empires have run out of ways to make revenue so they are combining forces in order to do that.

    This is what concerns me – the openness of the internet will get lost in the battle to make money off of it. It was brought up that the two words that were used throughout the FCC decision were “reasonable” and “unreasonable,” which is entirely subjective. In my opinion an open Internet is entirely reasonable, but I imagine that executives at Comcast and NBC would not agree. Who decides what is reasonable – the FCC? And it is clear that regardless of what they decide, they don’t have any real authority to do anything about it.

  3. For me, yesterday was another great day at the University of Washington. Thank you, Hanson. I have a business background, and little by little, I am realizing how important this field of communication is; especially in today’s diverse and changing world.
    The public conversation on transmedia storytelling and the Internet article: “Who Owns the Pipes?” was an important one to have within our MCDM and friends community. The “peg news” arriving from the recent FCC approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, made the topic of the conversation a thought-provoking one.
    The recent approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger from both the Justice Department and the FCC is nerve-racking. I need to read more about the subject, but based on yesterday’s press releases flooding the internet, it seems that the deal has several conditions and stipulations. The FCC recognized in their approval letter that there are some risks within this merger in regards “to the development of innovative online video distribution services.”…Really? This is the main reason why Asian countries are way ahead of us in regards innovate online video distribution services. Comcast is America’s biggest cable company. And now, with this new acquisition, they will have majority control in NBC one of the most important broadcast networks in America, in TV Cable channels and in the Universals theme parks! I’m wondering who is starting to own the pipes now?
    My experience taught me that in corporations everything is about the bottom line. I believe that having competitors and options are a good thing. It’s just the way it is. Although Comcast paid a big chunk of money, I am sure that they already have a plan on how to make all of their investment back and then some. Now, I would like to see how this “transaction” will affect us, “the consumers,” in pricing, but more importantly, I am wondering what will happen when Comcast disagrees with specific content or specific web traffic usage through their pipes.
    Comcast, a couple of years ago was in the middle of the hurricane in terms of Net Neutrality. An FCC hearing was organized in Harvard’s Law School because there were numerous complaints that Comcast had been blocking web traffic usage, mainly “peer to peer” file sharing, from specific users. Comcast denied these charges saying that they were only “managing protocols during high traffic periods.” They won that time. Openness and transparency are key concepts here.
    Finally, the interview on the Media Space TV with storyteller Brent Friedman was very informative. It was an honor being a part of the “live audience” in the UWTV Studios for such a great interview.

  4. As you’ll see in my Flip the Media post on the salon (which should be published sometime Friday or next Monday) I think the only way to go in this day and age for a public forum IS a salon. Frankly, as informative and interesting as the “Whidbey Island Mafia” was, it was truly two or three audience questions/comments that profoundly turned the tide of the conversation.

    One audience question absolutely haunted me–what if we are simply barking up the wrong tree trying the legislate and regulate the Internet–shouldn’t we be working as hard as possible to better the technology so that speed of access isn’t an issue? Am I completely naive to think that this is possible? Maybe I need to understand Net Neutrality better, but it seemed to me that the “audience” was more concerned than the professionals sitting in front of them. My feelings are more similar to those expressed by Evan above. What is will happen to the “Digital Revolution” when it gets bought up by corporations we can’t even begin to fight as individuals?

    Another audience member, who I blog about specifically because she identified herself as a member of the UW Dept. of Education, made a comment that also resonated with me–if we are giving, as I think Friedman mentioned, “carte blanche” to the government and corporations to regulate the Internet, will all stories be told through the filter of Comcast or NBC? Or Verizon or AT&T for that matter? How long until they slow down content that doesn’t jive with their company’s mission statement? Is it really “part of the fun” to search harder for great independent content, or will it just render it impossible for those without the monetary means to afford fast internet, as we already see in the Digital Divide?

    All in all, it was a great experience and truly augmented the energy of the class discussion of our personal videos afterward. Bravo Hanson!

  5. It always concerns me when large corporations are put in position to decide what is best for the general public in regards to accessing goods, services or, in this case, information. It is highly unlikely Comcast, who have never been known for their excellent customer service, will put the needs and desires of the consumer above its own bottom line, even with the restrictions placed upon them by the FCC. As Comcast grows and seizes more and more control over broadband and mobile broadband it will become more difficult for the FCC to enforce the rather vague limitations they have set forth.

    Comcast is a giant that already controls a huge percentage of broadband access. In many areas, Comcast is the only option people have for accessing online content. Now it appears they will be able to control the content itself. What’s in it for Comcast to allow access to competitive content? Large corporations do one thing – chase dollars. In the end Comcast will do what’s best for Comcast.

    1. I’m totally with you, Derek. It really concerns me that Comcast is on the path to seize more control and power – especially now with the NBCU merger. Comcast will indeed continue to do what’s best for Comcast and I’m worried about what that means for us consumers.

  6. I find last night’s salon very fascinating. It brought up a brunch of interesting ideas and thoughts, which resonated with me and set me think a lot.

    First, “transmedia” storytelling is catching people’s eyes. Looking back to every the past decade, I am always surprised by the abnormal changes in ways people tell a story and what stories about. It doesn’t mean that story is not important anymore. It does matter, and it is the soul of storytelling. However, revolution also lies in the tech resources. New tech resources can always expand our possibilities in telling the same story.

    Second, I am so curious about the growing of Comcast and its merge with NBC. My confusion is whether it matters who owns the pipe. As Comcast growing, it looks like a giant monopoly for me. In China, government owns the internet company and regulates internet. With no revival competitors, Comcast may easily control content. I understand that here is a democratic country. But we rely more and more on internet to get our information, we ask Google for almost everything we don’t know. Once I think about this, I would picture a sci-fiction about information war between these giant evil internet companies and us. >< I think I may read too much sci-fictions.

  7. Brent Friedman did an excellent job last night explaining what transmedia storytelling is and how multiple platforms shape the ways you tell a story. I’m intrigued now by the synergy between non-linear stories and technology.

    As you mentioned later in class, constraints can drive creativity, and Friedman deftly uses the constraints of the various platforms he extends the story on.
    He talked about keeping the story set up minimal, just long enough to provide a story hook, with background information provided as the story unfolds, and as engagement with the story increases.

    It was great to hear his response to my concern that too many devices may complicate the creation of an accessible experience. As long as the main platforms in which the story is told remain relatively open and accessible, it is not a big deal if not everyone engages with the story on all platforms. Later that night, he added in a tweet: “First and foremost, the STORY has to be accessible. I’ve found an audience will follow a strong story across all forms of media.”

    The conversation with Friedman colored my response to the Net Neutrality panel discussion. I was wondering before the event if the Comcast/NBC deal would put Swiss-cheese-sized holes in the Swiss-like neutrality of the Net. Afterwards, I am reassured that, even if holes appear, the cheese will hold up just fine, at least online. Even if the exception made for mobile is more worrisome, I believe it’s unlikely to affect the way we can engage with content all that much.

    Regardless of platforms, storytelling will continue to engage and connect us.

    And events such as the Four Peaks salons are closely related to the kind of engagement provided by a good story: they also connect people, and help us make sense of the (digital media) world we live in. I’m happy the MCDM is choosing this approach, because in addition to good PR, it creates added value for students and the broader community.

    Whenever I leave an MCDM class, or an event such as the salon, I have a very similar response to what Brent Friedman experienced at MIT: the possibilities boggle the mind.

  8. I find it somewhat troubling that last night’s discussion on net neutrality centered on the streaming of our precious, precious TV shows, movies, and other means of distraction. It is far scarier to consider what affect government approval of deals like the Comcast/NBC merger could have on distribution or burial of information. Last night I compared this merger to the vertical integration of the Hollywood studio system from the 1920s through the 1940s. In hind sight, who controlled the production, distribution, and exhibition of movies mattered less to consumers than it did to companies that were being shoved out of the space. If someone didn’t want to see a Warner Bros. film, they went to a Paramount-owned theater. Not a big deal.

    But this new merger brings that dilemma into people’s homes. I hope all of us with Comcast like The Office and Law & Order (oh yeah, and all of Universal’s output, Comcast now controls that, too) – because those will be in crisp, beautiful HD. Offerings from ABC, 20th Centruy Fox, etc? Those will look more like Super Mario Bros. and sound about as good. Unless of course you pay a premium that Comcast would be all too happy to accept, I’m sure.

    While one distinguished panelist made note that yesterday’s announcement had little impact on Comcast’s stock price, he failed to address the fact that the government’s thumbs up had been dealt with on Wall Street long before. It downplays the significance of the potential floodgate this deal could open. Mergers lead to less competition, which leads to more power in fewer hands.

    I suppose it’s government as usual to take two steps back in order to take one step forward.

  9. Kudos for bringing panelists who a) have an interest (and track record) in monetizing online content, b) a serious understanding of the technology behind the internet and c) has a balanced viewpoint between creators and consumers. The interview with Brent was very interesting – it seems rare to hear from someone who is succeeding monetarily from new media – but still reinforces the need for traditional mediums. If we all canceled cable, the whole MTV experience goes away.

    I wish we had a little more time to hear from Russell as it seemed he has some interesting ideas that we didn’t get to hear. I especially liked his ideas about nonprofits and other nontraditional media producers who do have important stories to tell being potentially squeezed out of the conversation.

    The most fascinating presentation for me though was John’s perspective of the Comcast/NBC deal. Whether or not I agree with his perspective of it being a big yawn, what I find more interesting was his blog post on Media Dojo from before the salon. He mentions the wide range of services and applications available over the internet and essentially asks the question of which of those services should have their access protected by neutrality. I really appreciate his attention to nuance and for calling out both sides of the neutrality debate. I wish I had a better understanding though – because while I understand the huge increase in processing power to encode video, process on demand requests and handle processing requirements for SaaS applications – I don’t understand how that affects the pipes that the end-result data flow through. As I understand it, data centers are owned by separate groups of companies than the content delivery companies. And net neutrality is focuses on the content delivery companies.

    I could very well be wrong and misunderstand the technical hurdles, but if we are going to have a real understanding of the issue, these technical issues must be explained even if they don’t fit into convenient sound bites.

  10. So many thoughts…

    First of all, I think this is a good conversation but it’s being over sensationalized and frankly I don’t believe that Comcast taking over a large portion of NBC is a sign that we’re losing our Internet freedom. The only reason Comcast has the money to do this is that they’ve invested in technology (infrastructure) and they provide a decent service compared to their competitors. As John writes in his blog (, “there will be a healthy dollop of Church/State gnashing of teeth over Net Neutrality, which has evolved into a 9 headed monster that’s feeding the coffers of both industry and advocacy groups.” Net Neutrality is an issue but it’s been over simplified and there are far more important issues to be concerned with.

    In response to Evan’s comment above- mobile services such as AT&T and T-mobile may actually be the saviors if we believe that Comcast is now the anti-christ. I can tether my old Windows Phone to my computer and get 3-4mbps, a speed that compares to Comcast’s cable Internet. If I felt like Comcast was throttling me below this, all I’d need to do is cancel Comcast. Fortunately Comcast does what I need it to do (without any regulations in place) and usually is more stable than T-mobile. I agree with Peter, “even if holes appear, the cheese will hold up just fine, at least online.”

    Overall I think these conversations with true professionals are extremely important. Without them, we have little choice but to accept the issues as they are framed by organizations looking for new ways to get donations through public ignorance. I’m looking forward to participating in future Four Peak events and getting a broader perspective on some very fascinating issues!

  11. The salon was fantastic and I think panelists (lubricants?) provided a nice balance of perspectives.
    One of my concerns about the idea that competition or capitalism will solve the net neutrality issue is that our current broadband environment is not set up for competition. Municipal cable franchise monopolies may have made sense in the era of cable television when the companies provided more-or-less the same content and the municipality could negotiate for prices and features that benefit the residents of the city. Now those pipes that once delivered only cable TV are now delivering broadband and the franchises that once protected the customers are inhibiting true broadband competition. Where I live my only wired broadband option is Comcast. Qwest does not offer ANY level of DSL. If you walk less than a mile up the road, you’d be in another City serviced by Verizon (Frontier?) and can get their FIOS service. So, unless the cable franchise laws change or until wireless broadband gets as fast and reliable as wired, I don’t see how competition is going to solve anything.
    The one question I regret not asking during the Salon is not about the pipes but the middle layer where consumers are being affected by decisions of big companies. The two examples I’m thinking of are the ongoing battle between Apple and Adobe over Flash and the recent announcement by Google about stopping support for the H.264 codec. The combination of these two has the potential to create huge problems for content producers and consumers, but we’re not seeing nearly the level of discussion on this as we’re seeing on Net Neutrality.

  12. Four Peaks was fabulous in that it was extremely educational (and entertaining) to hear why a gaggle of grizzled storytelling veterans believe an exhaustive exploration of the Comcast/NBC merger is necessary.

    From the appropriate yawn on one end of the spectrum to a couple of the more panicked onlookers, it began to dawn on me that the continuum of this rich, full explanation of the merger’s effects was just that – an explanation.

    At this crossroads, one either accepts the explanation and moves forward with the sort of entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by Brent Friedman … or one becomes paralyzed by the fruitlessness of fear and makes a slew of silly excuses.

    As I was telling a MCDM cohort Tuesday evening in Kane Hall, there is no one or no thing stopping him, me or us from packing our bags and striking out before dawn the next day to create the greatest story[telling] ever told.

    In short, don’t give a predictable corporate merger so much undeserved credit. I absolutely loved the tweeted musing of MCDM Associate Director Anita Verna Crofts whose curiosity crafted this gem:

    “Is the difficulty of discovering certain content part of its allure?”

    On the one hand, the answer is so obvious it should smack us upside the head. On the other hand, we’ve become so accustomed to remotes, treadmills and microwaves; the notion of losing our internet freedom seems a scary proposition.

    Make no mistake. The only folks who can rob us of our internet freedoms are us. Ask Friedman how long he’s been sitting around sulking over Comcast. Fifty bucks says he’s plotting or producing his next Whidbey Island Mafia merger.

    All in the light of day while the FCC chugs their finest Chardonnay with NBC.

    Go. Do. Create.

  13. I really appreciate we have this opportunity to join the salon and had a conversation about the latest “news topic” – Comcast / NBC merger issue. To be honestly, I felt a little bit difficult to understand some questions and answers between the panels and audiences due to lack of background knowledge of American ISP and Media companies history and problems. However, I can sense this is a very serious issue that involve “monopoly” of a big company, a notorious one. I read some articles which talked about this news and mentioned that in order to protect the open Internet, FCC set nine conditions for Comcast (but only for seven years) to ensure the market could maintain its competitive and open environment. However, I think some people (or most people?) in US have already lost the trust of Comcast, hence they tend to worry about the future of Internet openness.

    In my opinion, I believe that openness is very important and without this the market could lost the motivation of innovate and creative ideas. For example, in Taiwan, Yahoo! Taiwan is the biggest one portal site so other portal sites usually just copy the features and designs from it. It seems they need more stimulations but couldn’t obtain those in the monopoly market. The same situation may happen in the Comcast/ NBC issue. I also feel ironic that in the capitalism world people have huge freedom to do anything but this freedom also leads us to the monopoly situation and finally we lost the freedom. We still have right to not choose the biggest company however once it owns the biggest pipe of water, we may also lost the right of choices.

    1. Coco,
      This is a wonderfully thoughtful, reasoned retort to my relative indifference to what John on the panel called, in effect, a big yawn. Thank you very much for your work. I learned from you!

  14. There is always an inspiring moment for me at these types of events and I am carried by the coming together of community and how people connect and learn from each other. As the conversation delved deeply into the issues of transmedia storytelling and net nutrality I felt pulled into a world that I’m not as familiar with beyond my recent personal pleasure of cancelling my cable provider. I was informed by the invited thought leaders and, ultimately, felt that my inspiring moment was realizing that I had more to contribute than I thought. I have a unique background understanding of Seattle’s Telecommunications Council (my husband sat on the Board for several years) and found myself continuing my learning beyond the event by engaging with others online and making new contacts in the community. Regardless of how I felt about the issue, the opportunity to hear from intelligent people and learn along side of my colleagues was powerful and rewarding.

    I also completely agree with Peter’s comment:

    “Regardless of platforms, storytelling will continue to engage and connect us. And events such as the Four Peaks salons are closely related to the kind of engagement provided by a good story: they also connect people, and help us make sense of the (digital media) world we live in. I’m happy the MCDM is choosing this approach, because in addition to good PR, it creates added value for students and the broader community.”

    Well stated!

  15. I enjoyed the panel about net neutrality and I hope to see other panels open to the public about hot topics. It give us the opportunity to think in group, listen to different points of views and maybe even come up with a collective solution. About the Net neutrality panel: The participants presented great arguments pros and cons about net neutrality but I would have like to had seen someone truly in favor of net neutrality like I am. Member of the audience were stellar at challenging the panel with important points. Is the end of net neutrality the only alternative? What does that really mean to us? Why can’t technology be the solution to keep things the way they are right? I understand the business side of things and it is easy from the companies to try to apply the same TV cable model to the internet business and make more millions along the way. The term Capitalism came up a few times in the discussion. Internet survived really well for many years in the capitalism society. The companies managed to come up with many ways to make money with subscriptions, fast speed, advertising and search. I remember when I first heard of the net neutrality discussion and I become really afraid of Big Brother effect: end of freedom, manipulation of the content and so on. Ending net neutrality in my opinion is going against what internet was all about. Who is going to provide checks and balances to the cable providers? I believe in the democracy and freedom of the internet and it is hard for me to let go of this concept. I think the issue will evolve and my opinion might evolve too. I think the society should be vigilant.

  16. If there is one thing that makes me uneasy, it’s the conglomeration of major companies taking the control/choice away from the consumer. The relinquishment of choices will surely lead to the capitalization and monetization of the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I like money too but I am concerned that having to pay (more) for the internet will lead to the discrimination of access to those who are less fortunate. Those who have lower incomes rely on being able to access the internet at a low cost in their home or for free at the local library but what happens when you have to pay $5 to jump on the internet at the library? My guess is that even the smallest of increases will cause some people to give it up altogether and then become less connected. It has the potential to turn into a downward spiral for some. What about those people in rural areas? Will the cost of connecting to the internet be more for them?

    The problem is that we have some really big players (NBC, FCC, Comcast, etc.) and it does not appear that these entities are beholden to answer to anyone other than themselves. Who’s regulating them?

    I also agree with Elizabeth Hunter when she said in an earlier post that she felt as though “the audience was more concerned than the professionals sitting in front of them”, and it made me wonder if they were not as concerned because they had already achieved some success and are able to call on studio connections to get their product noticed regardless. What happens when the content provided is not what the viewer would like to see? Should I call the Comcast/NBC customer service line? Who will pick up the call at 2am?

    Overall, the salon was a great experience and I look forward to the engaging conversation and cheese next month.

  17. Tuesday night’s discussion on the potential ramifications of the FCC’s approval of the Comcast/NBC merger was interesting. There seemed to be real a panic among some that this will usher in a new era of virtual censorship and a loss of our Internet freedom while others were relatively unconcerned.

    A few things stood out to me during the discussion and while I am no fan of large corporations and actually have a healthy hatred for Comcast as a company, I am leaning toward the view that this merger is not the beginning of the Internet apocalypse – it just represents one in what will be a long line of moves by companies and others entities in trying to find their piece of the revenue pie as broadcast migrates online. I don’t think this is the watershed moment that will change the Internet as we know it.

    This merger seems is about entertainment (television), not information (the internet). If we are worried about Comcast controlling what entertainment media we are able to receive on line why haven’t we been worried about Comcast deciding what channels they provide to us in a cable TV environment? NBC or no NBC it is in Comcast’s interests as a business to provide what people want to see and they will continue to do so. If not, someone else will figure out how to do it – that’s how business works and how people make money.

    Whether or not people will still be able to access the information they are used to over the internet seems to me a bit of a red herring. We should be vigilant as a society when it comes to scrutinizing how large companies operate but to think one merger could derail in any significant way what has become a vital component of our society seems to me implausible. What this merger and the worries it has raised says to me is that people are simply more uncomfortable with the size of Comcast and its dominance of the market in many areas. What we really need to be focusing on is the need for real competition in the provision of Internet access.

  18. I’ve never had a serious thought of “transmedia” before the salon. Brend’s speech and the discussion were very enlightening. I start to connect the abstract term “transmedia storytelling” to what it has tangibly brought into our life.

    I’ve been using several online video-sharing platforms and streaming video networks since these programs are booming in China in the recent years. I notice how new media change the way people tell stories, and change the roles of us. We change from receivers to creators. We are not supposed to sit in the couch and watch whatever the TV provides us. We need free and easy access to all the stories, we even want to interact with the stories. Transmedia storytelling serve our demands.

    I was very impressed by the business model of Valemont mentioned by Brend.How smart to market the shows on TV while the full version could only be seen on the internet.Most of the online show are free to access, so it’s tolerable even if they embed ads and brands into the shows. In China, I know some series are only available on video networks like or ppstream, but they don’t market on tranditional broadcasting platforms. Even they do, it is just because the cable and web belong to the same corporation. I think this is a fantanstic model that all the medias,including TV, radio, web, mobile,no matter they are partners or competitors, intergrate to make the story to its fullest. And the marriage between shows and games is a great success. Seattle has its advantage in technology for game industry, so there should be more opportunities to engage audience by adapting stories to games.

    Hoever, when excited about the revolution transmedia brings to us, there is one question comes to my mind: how can we avoid the copyright issue when intergrating all the medias, especially how can we prevent the video-sharing network from abusing their power? When the barries between media platforms are broken, how can they still maintain a good balance?

    As for the merger of Comcast and NBC, to be honest, I am a little bit shocked about FCC’s approval. I am strongly against monopoly power. I don’t think it will benefit the audience if FCC let the gigantic company control the pipes. It is easy to imagine the possibility that we will be deprived the freedom to choose. And the worst is, strong gets stronger, weak gets weaker, so when we get used to all the services from the monopoly party, the market for those rising media entities would be very limited and this is not what a healthy market supposed to be. But Corey’s opinion also makes sense that the merger might also benefit us if Comcast fill in their high-tech while limiting their control on audience’s choice. So it may not be the time for us to make a arbitrary judgement. I’ll wait and see.

  19. After hearing the early discussions around the FourPeaks a few months ago I was very eager to actually see this first salon kicked-off. I typically tend to feel that these things are ofter a few guys on their soap box but I was really impressed by the interview and the feedback from the panel after wards. I would like to be able to see a more interactive conversation where we break into smaller hubs and are really able to dive into these issues but I think this was a great first run. I would also like to see a bit more diversity in panel or some more representation around the net neutrality issue.

    The transmedia storytelling interview was great. Although I personally have no interest in interacting with TV show…because of my work my computer is dang near an appendage as it is and I love the few, rare moments I get to just sit and enjoy a great program where I don’t have to do anything. I can really see a place for this for a certain audience and absolutely see the power of these evangelists…takes me back to some Shirky readings of last quarter and the power of these small groups. I am also very intrigued on how gaming concepts are working into storytelling…hope to hear more about this in future salons.

    1. More thoughts on this…I am still finding myself struggling with some of the transmedia in that I feel like the focus gets so wrapped up in the technology and the tricks that the quality of the storytelling gets lost. As a parent I don’t know if I am wowed or concerned that our children are watching a movie while using their mobile phone, while on their computer. What are they really hearing and understanding…will they lose the attention span to be able to just sit and hear someone talk or read a book. I know it is just different way of storytelling but I am concerned that something is being lost and that everything just starts to turn into noise.

  20. I enjoyed the transmedia storytelling segment of the evening immensely. At the beginning of the year I heard a story on NPR about some authors who were writing a story that was publishing online. They opened the website and anyone could contribute to the story. It was fascinating to me because I’d never heard of such a thing. It was like wikipedia story telling – anyone could contribute to the story and then the authors in charge did nominal editing. The goal was to make a complete story after a set amount of time.

    Listening to Brent Friedman speak on Valemont and transmedia storytelling reminded me of the story I’d heard on NPR. There is so much that can be done with transmedia storytelling. The interview was inspiring. It made me want to find out more about transmedia storytelling, and all that it entails. How much fun it must have been to unleash your creativity to come up with ideas for telling the same story from multiple points of views over various platforms. Genius!

    In regards to the Comcast/NBC deal. Like Ingrid, one of my first thoughts went to those who can not afford cable/internet as it is, let alone from a conglomerate as dedicated to ripping us off as Comcast currently does.

    The website reported on the merger yesterday dedicating a blog post to the issue titled “Comcast: $10/month Internet—and cheap netbooks—for the poor.”

    The first two paragraphs briefly touched on Comcast’s responsibility (although apparently the government is carrying some weight) to those households who may need assistance.

    “The deal requires Comcast to provide “approximately” 2.5 million low income households with high speed Internet for less than $10 a month. To this population the ISP must also sell PCs, netbooks, or similar computer equipment at prices below $150, and offer a host of “digital literacy educational opportunities.”

    In addition, Comcast must grow its broadband networks to about 400,000 new homes, get fast Internet service to six additional rural areas, and offer free video and ISP offerings to 600 new “anchor institutions” in low income regions (“anchor” here means schools, libraries, and such).”

    I have to wonder if Comcast will simply turn around and raise rates for those people already paying for their services in order to make up for some of the loss they will incur providing free services to those in need.

    Getting internet/cable services for 10$ a month could provide opportunities for communities in ways that we would have a hard time dreaming of. Acces to the internet brings with it a sort of freedom that many people take for granted. That being said, there are some families, myself included, that could not afford to pay an additional 10$ a month for another additional service. Dollar bills only stretch so far.

    1. Hi Rachel Crick,

      Thanks for sharing the article about “Internet for $ 10 from Comcast”. I am very fascinated by Digital Inclusion and strong advocate for a way to make Technology and access to internet available to everyone, including the poor, the homeless, the elderly and also in the Emerging Markets.

  21. Well, I have to admit, I don’t feel well-versed enough in telecommunications policy history to put the Comcast/NBC merger in complete perspective. I agree with the sentiments expressed in some of the posts here – the deal screams big business in the worst way.

    My first thought is that there is an inherent conflict of interest between those who create the content (NBC) and those who provide access to the content (Comcast). With this merger, Comcast now has a strong incentive (more profit) to offer access to NBC’s content over the content of other providers. Plain and simple. This dynamic will taint everything they say and do and undermine any claims they make to the contrary.

    According to FCC Chairman Genachoswski, the merger was structured to “spur broadband adoption among underserved communities; to increase broadband access to schools and libraries; and to increase news coverage, children’s television, and Spanish-language programming.” As much as I’d like to see that increase in access, I’m skeptical that this merger is the way to achieve it. I’d like to get an insider’s perspective on the specific conditions attached with this merger and whether they have any teeth in preventing the negative consequences that media consolidation in the past has brought. Bill Moyer says it best,”…media growth has one clear consequence: there is more information and easier access to it, but it’s more narrow in content and perspective, so that what we see from the couch is overwhelmingly a view from the top.”

  22. Like many things these days, I feel like I left the salon with more questions than answers. I appreciated Brent’s dual perspectives on net neutrality, and thought he raised a good point regarding premium access as a means for content creators to make money. In an age where everything seems to be crowdsourced, I often wonder how creative types will continue to make money, and this offered some glimmer of a possible solution. However, my hippie parents raised me better than to think that a big conglomerate like Comcast-NBC would be looking out for creative content producers.

    I wonder too what this will mean for those that have limited means and thus limited access. What I love about digital media is the opportunity to build connections between people, but I don’t always remember that these connections aren’t available to everyone. I don’t necessarily think that things will become “worse” but it seems like we only continue to perpetuate the divides that exist between people.

  23. Reflecting on the salon, and thanks to a discussion in Ken Rufo’s Evolutions class on Wednesday, I think it is important to point out that even though Comcast hasn’t done anything yet to disrupt access, speed, etc. to anything, the past or the fact that we haven’t seen anything happen so far does not necessarily reflect the future. There are a lot of things, historically, that we couldn’t imagine happen or see evidence of, but it still came to fruition. It is a slippery slope we are playing on.

    Even with all of us users connected and conversing, it is hard to predict what will happen with corporate interests at hand. And beyond that, I believe Comcast’s interests and stakes in the “ownership” of the internet are already crippling increases in access and speed. The US does not lead in internet connection speeds or percentage of population with access . The Scandinavian countries lead in access as well as speed, and South Korea is aiming to reach 1 Gbps in 2012. We trail in speed and access, because the cost of having reliable (mostly) and fast internet are too great in the US. (For example, on average it costs about $45 in the US for broadband, and in Korea it is around $28 and around $11 in Sweden.)

    One of the questions asked during the salon, regarding PSAs and the Comcast/NBC merger stuck with me. I am an avid Glee fan, which is a Fox program. Whether on TV or on Hulu, Fox plays ads for being green, providing tips to go green and also ones featuring the Glee cast. With the new requirements for Comcast to make reasonable efforts, and with the corporate interests to look like good citizens in mind, this is what I think PSAs will turn into.
    They will feature products or companies, shows or someone famous, and will appear only to make whoever paid for it look better. Any true publicly funded service announcements will, as we said on Tuesday, find their slot, if any, at 3 am when no one is watching. Sad, because I will miss seeing spectacular scare tactics like the “This is your brain on drugs” fried egg commercials.

  24. Nothing is more terrifying than a room full of smart people with honest questions. Kabuki only works on the Tokyo stage or in delivering quarterly numbers to professional analysts.

    Going forward, I suggest a look at “The Curse of the Mogul: What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies” by Jonathan A. Knee, Burce Greenwald and Ava Seave (Portfolio Books).

    “…The shocking, evident, persistent and oddly ignored fact is that the financial returns of media companies significantly and relentlessly fall below those of the stock market as a whole…..For all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity releases they produce, why can’t these companies come close to delivering the kind of returns available from closing your eyes and throwing a dart?”

    Then they reveal their bias 🙂

    Actually, it’s an excellent companion to Entertainment Industry Economics by Vogel for piercing the veil of how media companies attempt to accumulate wealth and power.

    My generally sanguine opinion of Comcast/NBC is that Williams of Comast has designs to be a mogul…that’s why I said it was a great day to take a short position on Comcast.

  25. First of all, thank you to Hanson for including Brent, John and me in the Salon.

    Second of all, I’m glad I didn’t read a thread like this one from this group BEFORE the salon, because I would have been incredibly intimidated to sit up front … what a fantastic group of thinkers and thought leaders …

    I’m going to leave it up to fellow Whidbey Media Mafia member John de Pre Gauntt to wax poetic on the media business. In case you didn’t notice, he knows his stuff in that regard!

    Rather, I wanted to touch on Theresa Stone’s comment, re the tension between the opportunities to “interact with the the TV show,” versus passively kicking back, chilling out and watching programming.

    An essential objective of Transmedia Storytelling, when the objectives are well met, is that each separate experience with the story (online, on mobile, as ARG, as event, as broadcast, and so on) should stand alone as a satisfying experience, but contribute to the storyverse as a whole.

    And many Transmedia properties have a satisfying resolve in that the big “payoff” is either a TV program experience, or a movie.

    In a Transmedia Storytelling 101 presentation that I give I point to LOST as a good example. For the 10 to 15% of the fandom that were really into LOST, there was oodles of content and experiences online, that expanded the LOST storyverse.

    But for the majority of the rest of us (and this includes me), just watching the TV broadcast was a satisfying experience. I knew the other content was out there, and that it expanded upon the main story that I was seeing unfold week after week on TV, but except for a few occasions, I didn’t spend much time on the online content.

    It’s important to keep in mind that Hollywood still largely views Transmedia as a “marketing” activity for a film or TV show. Serious practitioners such as Brent (and I’ve got a couple of toes dipped in this pond at present) value the Transmedia methodology for the cool storytelling experience it provides. And, oh, btw, it does market the main movie or TV program — added bonus.

    Thanks again for the hospitality the other night!
    Russell Sparkman

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