Name: Harry Grapenthin
Bio: As Vice President of Media/Entertainment for BurrellesLuce, I’ve worked closely with the heads of corporate communications and publicity departments from cable/network television, major record labels and movie studios – over the years, assisting them with developing an effective media strategy. Living in Manhattan and working in LA affords me the opportunity to develop and maintain long term relationships with my clients on both coasts. I enjoy following the evolution of the entertainment and media industry and writing about the most recent major developments. Most of my vacation time is spent traveling the world, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. When I’m not globetrotting, I enjoy movies (anything directed by Stanley Kubrick), music (I’m rarely seen without my iPod) and Florida State Football (my alma mater). Twitter: HarryGrape; LinkedIn: Harry Grapenthin; Facebook: BurrellesLuce
Posts by Harry Grapenthin:
It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein and something he might have actually said if the question was asked today, “How would you feel if a social networking site not only could predict who your closest friends were, but also have a say in the matter?”.
A research group from UC San Diego is claiming to be able to predict with great accuracy, who Facebook users closest friends are, by simply looking at their past site activity. In a controlled study led by researchers at UCSD, a survey group of Facebook users were asked to list their closest friends, the researchers would then try to guess who their closest friends were by looking merely at their Facebook activity. Using a model they developed, which takes into account the number of comments, messages, wall posts, likes, photo tags, etc. someone makes – the researchers claim that they predicted within 84 percent accuracy who were close friends. The study concluded, “The model’s success at discriminating closest friends from not-closest friends validates the use of online behavior data as a proxy measure for tie strength in real world relationships.”
But what I find to be more astonishing is that industry followers are taking this a step further. They claim a “prescribing of interaction” taking place at Facebook, one that may actually influence who you interact with more often on their site and, thus, making you closer “friends.” Some think a virtual or real life friendship or a blend of both may be strengthened between two people…. due to nothing more but “subtleties” on a web page. Benjamin Grosser, whose work has looked at Facebook’s role in our culture, says that the subtleties of its algorithms can shape which friends we interact with and how often we do so. “The question is whether the ways that Facebook prescribes interaction are changing how our friendships develop. This is not to say that the effect is strong enough to actually change who our closest friends are but a reminder that Facebook doesn’t merely capture a portrait of our social lives; it also contributes to what that portrait looks like.”
I am not a user of Facebook so I can’t comment whether I believe it is even possible for a web site to have an influence on who I determine to be my “closest friends” – but if this turned out to be the case, the only conclusion I would reach is that I needed to get out of the house more.
News Corp announced on Thursday that their board unanimously agreed on a plan to split its company’s entertainment division (which includes Fox News, 20th Century Fox, and Fox Networks) from the publishing division (which includes The Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins publishing, and The New York Post), reports The Economist. This comes as music to the ears of News Corp’s investors, who for years blamed the publishing arm for weighing down the entertainment division. (The entertainment division is responsible for 75 percent of the company’s profits.) Splitting the company in two is the “ultimate dream” of investors, says Michael Nathanson of Nomura, a stockbroker. News of the split sent News Corp’s stock up 10 percent.
This announcement and Rupert Murdoch’s “never say die” commitment to his beleaguered publishing arm come as little surprise to those of us who have followed the News Corp over the years. In a Thursday morning memo announcing the split to the News Corps employees, Murdoch made it very clear to everyone that his long love affair with publishing is far from over, and even spoke optimistically about his portfolio of newspapers and publishing companies. “Our publishing businesses are greatly undervalued by the skeptics. Through this transformation we will unleash their real potential, and be able to better articulate the true value they hold for shareholders,” stated Murdoch.
You have to admire the bold vision Murdoch unleashed for his new publishing entity, especially in the wake of the News of the World hacking scandal in the UK, and at a time when two of his newspapers – The New York Post and The London Times – are losing money, comments PaidContent.org. Even though newspapers may be on life support, they are still emitting a slight pulse. In The Economist article linked to earlier in this blog post, Jeff Logsdon of BMO Capital Markets added, “The newspaper business may not be growing, but it generates enough cash flow to sustain itself.”
Murdoch points to new global markets and platforms as major reasons for this publishing arms rejuvenation, with plans to accelerate growth into Australia and Latin America and citing the fact there are over 75 million tablets worldwide ready to receive information. “Our publishing company will deliver on the promise of a well-informed society as we aggressively grow our business across borders and new global platforms,” Murdoch is quoted as saying in this Wall Street Journal article.
While many remain a bit skeptical when it comes to publishing, especially newspapers, my colleague Johna Burke confirms in a recent Fresh Ideas post, Mobile Aids Growth of Traditional Media. She writes, “[...]unless you are seeing your coverage from ALL types of media, you won’t have an accurate representation of how your messages are playing out and influencing ALL of your audiences. [...] a digital focus alone, that doesn’t include traditional media, is blindingly misleading and can be equated to looking at the Grand Canyon through a straw. Sure, it’s pretty, but you miss more than you see!”
So, in 2012 one thing remains clear: content remains king and nobody knows that better than Mr. Murdoch.
In the 1960’s, Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, battled the auto industry over licensing agreements and accusing them of stealing his invention. Later, his story was made into the movie, “Flash of Genius,” starring Greg Kinnear, as described in Today Movies.
Earlier this week, Twitter announced they would commit to their employees, and release the Innovators Patent Agreement (IPA) – a new way to do patent assignment that would keep control in the hands of its engineers and designers. This is a revolutionary approach by Twitter since typically engineers and designers are required to sign an agreement with their company that gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work. The Atlantic reports that part of Twitters pledge from Twitter’s IPA reads as follows: “[Twitter] will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.”
There’s no surprise tech and intellectual property writers and thinkers are jumping for joy, and rightfully so, with many feeling it’s been a long time coming. Twitter also intends to reach out to other companies to discuss the IPA with the hopes that it will catch on and eventually become the norm. (I wonder if they will Tweet the other tech companies?)
If Robert Kearns had Twitter’s IPA to rely on, it would have saved him 20 years of legal headaches. He would have received full and immediate patent rights for the design and invention of a device that has been used in virtually every car from 1969 to present. Eventually he did win significant court settlements ($10 million from Ford and $30 million from Chrysler).
Who knows how differently Robert Kearns’s life would have turned out with all of the sudden wealth, and who knows how this new approach to software patent control would affect our developers and engineers in the future. The difference now is they can control the destinies of their own ideas … and all the perks that come along with them.
Pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference between Fox and Hulu, HBO and Netflix, or CNN and YouTube.January 23rd, 2012
The recent jockeying for position and struggle to find an identity within the crowded and competitive world of network, cable, streaming video, and online television reminds me of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, The Sneetches. The Sneetches were a group of yellow creatures, some with green stars on their bellies (a sign of distinction) and some without, until a character named Sylvester McMonkey McBean offers those without stars a chance to add them by going through his Star-On machine. In order to stay special the Sneetches formerly with stars happily pay the money to have them removed in his Star-Off machine. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next, and to quote the good Doctor,
“until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one… or that one was this one or which one was what one… or what one was who.”
The last few month, the news out of the “television” world has been very Seuss-like to say the least:
At this year’s winter TV press tour Kevin Reilly, entertainment president, Fox Broadcasting Company, revealed that his network plans to use web content as a development tool for the airwaves. “Something that starts in digital could be the next big primetime hit… We have an expertise, and a history, and proficiency, and a primetime audience base,” he confirms in this Atlantic.com article about 5 Ways the Networks Want to Change How You Watch TV. Reilly goes on to use Web Therapy starring Lisa Kudrow (of Friends fame) as one example of a web-only series that has successfully made the switch and is now aired on Showtime.
In an effort to kick start their declining subscription base, Netflix is beginning to act more like a network rather than your average streaming video provider. By jumping into the original programming waters, Netflix plans to release three new series in 2012 – starting with Lilyhammer, a crime comedy set in Norway’s former Winter Olympics headquarters, starring The Soprano’s Steven Van Zandt. Not to be outdone and fresh off a year where they realized 60 percent revenue growth in 2011, the web streaming service Hulu is launching its first ever original scripted series. Battleground, a mockumentary series described as “The Office meets The West Wing, premieres February 14, explains, this opinion brief on TheWeek.com.
And remember when YouTube was just a site where you could watch short clips of people doing funny and unusual things? Well, last week Reuters joined CNN and the BBC by unveiling its own channel to be shown on the popular video sharing site. The channels will show original content from Reuters on YouTube, which will allow them to leverage an army of over 3,000 reporters worldwide.
I doubt all the players involved with getting content to the masses will end up in blissful harmony like our friends the Sneetches, but it should be fun watching them run from one machine to the next having their green stars removed and re-added over again.
What are your thoughts? Please share them with me here on BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.
Christmas Tunes, an intentional time warp or just merry messages from yesterday’s Golden age of Radio and TV?December 23rd, 2011
I can’t remember where I heard this season’s “first” Christmas pop song. But like hearing the first birds of spring, suddenly there it was blaring from some outdoor mall or airport …and before the World Series was even over! So why is it that songs about a reindeer’s red nose, silver bells, or a dream of a white Christmas fill our ears year after year (whether we like it or not)? I love these songs and I have fond memories of these songs as a kid. I’d just prefer to remember them from a time where I was butchering them in a school play or caroling door to door, rather than hearing them in these public places.
Christmas classics like Drummer Boy, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Silver Bells, and Blue Christmas have been playing in retail stores, gas stations, hotel lobbies and over the radio waves for more than 60 years. Recently, these songs and many other holiday pop classics were highlighted in a popular web comic strip XKCD. The illustration points out that many of these songs, as well as other Christmas blue chip classics, were published and recorded around the 1940s and 1950s. Hint, it’s the baby boomers that we have to thank for keeping these songs in the mainstream for so many years.
Eric Harvey, a PhD candidate in Indiana University’s Department of Communication and Culture claims during a very specific time in American history (1940s and 1950s), culture and technology played a big role in the release of many of these holiday classics. During that time millions of young baby boomers were enjoying holiday films like Bob Hope’s the Lemon Drop Kid which gave us Silver Bells, and Bing Crosby’s Holiday Inn where he famously croons as a WWII soldier returning home with “I’ll be home for Christmas.” In the late 40s radio began to converge with TV and it was commonplace for families to be huddled around their living rooms enjoying holiday musicals, the songs forever etching memories of Christmas past in their minds.
With over 76 million babies born between 1945 and 1964 (who today make up more than half of all consumer spending in the US), it’s no surprise these songs are being used intentionally by retailers to recreate Christmas past and market to today’s multigenerational audiences – hopefully stimulating spending around the holiday season.
Harvey also points out, however, that “While it’s true that the majority of Christmas pop music played on mainstream radio stations was originally published and recorded in the 1940s and 50s, and naturally the culture of that time will permeate these songs, that does not directly equate to a modern nostalgia for that era.” In other words, what if you’re not a baby boomer? What if you didn’t see the movies, the TV show or are just too young to identify with these songs?
With the sheer repetition of these songs being played during today’s stressful holiday seasons, will these songs eventually condition us to equate them with long lines, holiday traffic or the dreaded visit from you’re annoying brother-in law? Very doubtful. After all, every generation has their favorite Christmas songs, and with today’s limitless choices and devices to hear them, it’s sure to be a Rockin’ Holiday Season for all generations! My personal favorites are Father Christmas by The Kinks, Greg Lake’s Do You Believe in Father Christmas? and Joan Jett’s Little Drummer Boy. What are yours?