Aug 08

U.S. Copyright Office Settles the Set-Top Box Debate

uscopyrightoffice1250Since the FCC first unveiled its proposed set-top box mandate in February, supporters and opponents of the proposal have vigorously debated whether the rule would even be lawful under U.S. copyright law.

On one side of the debate, critics explained how the FCC’s proposal would force TV providers to hand over licensed programming to third party corporations to be repackaged into competing services without permission or compensation.

· The creative community — from studios and programmers to artist guilds and labor unions — spoke out in unison to explain how this would devalue content, undermine quality programming, and make it harder for creative professionals to earn a living.

· Nearly 200 bipartisan members of Congress have also spoken out, raising questions about the proposal including specific concerns about its disregard for the rights of content owners.

But despite this overwhelming outcry, lobbyists supporting the proposed mandate have insisted at every turn that the copyright concerns raised by critics were baseless. “Alleged ‘copyright arguments’ against the proposed rules are factually or conceptually mistaken,” argued the “Consumer Video Choice Coalition.”

In a major new development yesterday, the U.S. Copyright Office sent a letter responding to questions from four Members of Congress about the copyright implications of the set-top box proposal. The Copyright Office — the expert agency tasked with providing impartial advice to Congress and federal agencies on copyright law — offered a detailed, impartial, and reasoned legal analysis of the set-top box proposal’s many conflicts with copyright law, echoing in writing concerns that were initially raised when Chairman Wheeler asked the Copyright Office to brief FCC staff.

Consider some of the letter’s most damning highlights:

· “The Office’s principal reservation is that, as currently proposed, the rule could interfere with copyright owners’ rights to license their works as provided by copyright law…”

· “It appears inevitable that many negotiated conditions upon which copyright owners license their works to MVPDs would not be honored under the Proposed Rule.”

· “The Proposed Rule would thus appear to inappropriately restrict copyright owners’ exclusive right to authorize parties of their choosing to publicly perform, display, reproduce, and distribute their works according to agreed conditions.”

· “The rule thus raises serious concerns as a matter of copyright policy, because allowing third parties to commercially exploit copyrighted works in this manner could diminish the value of those works.”

· “The Copyright Office would caution against government action that would interfere with, rather than respect, the flexible legal framework Congress has set forth.”

· “We also observe that the approach of the Proposed Rule appears to be in tension with Congress’ judgment in enacting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.”

These detailed concerns from the U.S. government’s expert copyright agency ought to put the final nail in the coffin of the FCC’s deeply flawed proposal. A majority of Commissioners have already voiced opposition and stressed the need for a different path forward.

Fortunately for consumers, a robust discussion is already underway to reach agreement on an alternative approach that would let customers ditch leased set-top boxes altogether, while still protecting copyright. While more work lies ahead, members of the Future of TV Coalition continue to take the lead in offering detailed technical proposals and pushing the conversation forward constructively.

Yesterday’s analysis from the Copyright Office is a clear reminder that content owners’ rights — as defined by Congress, not the FCC — must be fully and unambiguously protected in any final FCC rules.

The lobbyists on the other side of this debate, whose arguments have now been discredited by yesterday’s developments, aren’t likely to simply give up the fight. The groups still pushing the flawed mandate appear to have settled on a new strategy, graciously conceding that apps-based alternatives are fine as long as the original content-poaching mandate could still be “bolted on” as an addendum.

In the weeks ahead, expect these groups to also argue that minor changes around the proposal’s edges are all that is needed to effectively address the Copyright Office’s concerns. Don’t fall for it. Remember, the self-appointed copyright experts making that case will be the same ones whose last round of self-serving assurances were just refuted by the federal government’s foremost copyright authority.

The Copyright Office’s letter should finally put to rest a poorly conceived proposal that threatened to devastate the creative ecosystem. For everyone who creates, distributes, or loves quality TV, that’s great news.

Jul 22


AppYesterday, NCTA submitted a 30+ page filing (plus over one thousand pages of supporting technical specs) that provides additional information requested by the FCC about the open standard-based apps proposal presented several weeks ago by a group of independent programmers, NCTA and pay TV companies. This information supplements our prior efforts, both within the Downloadable Security Technical Advisory Committee (DSTAC) and through briefings requested by the Commission, to explain how the HTML5 standard works and why reliance on an ”apps approach” offers a more productive path forward than the NPRM’s ”content unbundling approach” when it comes to competition, content diversity, copyright protection, and consumer welfare.

Our filing yesterday provides additional detail about HTML5 and suggests how the FCC can operationalize an apps-based approach that will advance the cause of retail device competition while respecting the rights of content creators and distributors.

The good news about this recent interest in the apps proposal is that the Commission appears to be responding to the torrent of criticism unleashed by the NPRM which proposed unbundling pay TV programming and other important elements of MVPD service. We are happy to continue engagement with the Commission on this important issue and remain optimistic that we can achieve an outcome that will protect content, privacy and licensing agreements – as Chairman Wheeler has promised Congress on many occasions. But to accomplish this aim, we also ought to be clear about what the apps proposal will do and what it will not do.

So let’s be clear.  What the apps proposal will do is allow consumers to choose to watch their cable service without the need for a set-top box.  What it will not and should not do is to permit third parties to ignore copyright law and the decision of content creators as to how their content is packaged and presented to consumers.

Regrettably, some advocates seem committed to the extreme position that “ditching the box” is insufficient and that the FCC must go further to “unbundle the app.” But that idea is simply wrong.  It is at odds with the statute, sound policy and the very virtues on which an apps proposal is premised – permitting device makers to build competitive devices that incorporate MVPD offerings while protecting consumer privacy and other public interest goals, as well as protecting the rights of content creators and distributors.

As any casual observer of the retail marketplace can see, devices like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and others already compete based on their interfaces – the manner in which they present content to the consumer on their “home screen” and not based on the how programming is presented inside individual apps. After all, the FCC has no power to unbundle the offerings of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go or hundreds of other apps. This argument that pay TV content needs to be treated differently is simply a red herring by advocates who have long argued for the complete unbundling of pay TV services.

We welcome an honest conversation about how the apps approach can allow consumers to “Ditch the Box” if they choose. But in doing so we should be wary of those who will advance proposals under the guise of a “revised” apps proposal or who claim they are accepting the apps proposal but merely “bolting on” elements of the original proposal. Those advocates are merely trying to pour old wine in new bottles in an effort to subvert the virtues of the app proposal.

Jul 22

Carlos Vera Opinion: Here’s Why There’s Little Diversity Among Congressional Interns

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.39.21 AMHouse Speaker Paul Ryan’s photo surrounded by a sea of congressional interns has caused a firestorm as the “whiteness” of the young people in the picture has reverberated on social media.

At a time when the image of the Republican Party finds itself at the mercy of Donald Trump, the selfie rankled many who saw in the photo a party that is too insular and more intent on reaching out to white voters than to a growing and increasingly diverse electorate.This lack of diversity on the Hill, however, has less to do with party politics and more with how Congressional internships operate.Interning in Congress is a rite of passage for any college student who wants a career in politics, but they don’t come cheap. Congressional internships are generally unpaid, and living in D.C. will cost you a pretty penny.

Rent is more expensive than in most cities, and you have to budget in flights to and from D.C, transportation, food, and professional suits to wear for work. Interning on the Hill during the summer can cost a student up to $6,000 for three months.

Add this all together, and you end up with a glass ceiling that is largely impenetrable for most students of color.

As a former intern in Congress, this picture validates my frustrations with a system that is not kind to people of color or those with little means.

I remember walking through the halls of Congress and feeling intimidated and out of place because the only people that looked like me were the custodial workers. I also spent most of my time there exhausted.

At the time, I was a freshman at American University on a scholarship, so I had the advantage of being able to intern while going to school in the same city. The only problem was that I couldn’t afford it, and I couldn’t ask my parents for money.

I ended up interning 25 hours a week, working 20 hours at my paid job, and taking 16 credits. I was only 17 years old, and I was fighting the urge to fall asleep at my desk because I was getting so little sleep.

Some people may look at this picture and wonder, what’s the big deal if you can’t afford to be a congressional intern? The problem is more often than not, a good number of of them will end up working in Congress. They are part of the Congressional pipeline from intern to staffer that largely consists of white people.

Congress is one of the few places where you do not get hired unless you have “Hill experience,” which translates to having the money to intern for free during one of your summers in college.

The problem with this is that there are students of color who want to be in public service and are left out because of the price tag. Having a monochromatic staff leads to bad policy making.

Whether people want to admit or not, life experience and background shape our views and how we see the world. This could not be more true than for people that come from marginalized communities.

Policy making isn’t objective, it’s influenced by the staffers who write it up. This is influenced by their upbringing. If there’s a meeting on a policy affecting Native Americans, it’s safe to say that a staffer who is Native American would bring additional insights to the topic.

Regularly, reports come out that state the obvious: Congress is a very white place.

ryanYet nothing changes. Nothing significant will occur until members of Congress offer paid internships. While unpaid internships aren’t going away anytime soon, some sort of internship that is paid should be available for constituents with limited means.

According to a report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, paid internships are one measure to ensure there is a diverse “intern to staffer pipeline.”

For the last 38 years the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute has been offering paid internships and fellowships for Latinos while placing them in Congressional offices. Their work has paid off, and some of the top Latinos on the Hill are CHCI alumns.

Some have even left the Hill, like Stephanie Valencia, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Commerce. By paying interns with financial needs, it is providing the work experience and access that will allow them to then become staffers on the Hill.

Congress exists to represent the voices of Americans of all races, religions, and creeds. When interns in Congress, and later the people who staff Congress, do not look like me or don’t understand my experience, that’s a huge problem.

This is not just a Latino issue. It affects so many who cannot afford the opportunity to shape our national discourse.

It’s time for Congress to give every bright and talented student a fair shot to intern.

Carlos Vera is an associate at Megaphone Strategies, a progressive PR firm run by women and people of color. He previously interned in the House of Representatives, the European Parliament, the White House and founded Justice for AU Workers, a labor organization focused on fighting for custodial workers of color.

Source: NBC News

Jul 15

AT&T Named Official Provider for the 2016 National Conventions

125px-Att-logo.svgIn an effort to help ensure seamless communication throughout the 2016 National Conventions, AT&T has been named the Official Provider for Communications, Video and Technology for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Official Communications and Technology Provider of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

As an expected 50,000 people converge on both Cleveland and Philadelphia, we anticipate historic levels of data usage. We want to make it easier for convention-goers to share experiences — through social networks, photos, videos and more — from their mobile devices. And, we want for everyone participating in the democratic process to use our network to communicate across America.

AT&T has provided other mission-critical services for the National Conventions in 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012. With that said, we are veterans in this space and have the experience modeling the data world for significant events where large numbers of people connect, like the conventions. And, we are thrilled to once again be the official provider for the 2016 national conventions.

As part of our drive to be the premier integrated communications company in the world, AT&T employees in Cleveland and Philadelphia have been working hard over the past year to provide one of the best wired, wireless and video experiences. Preparations for the events are ongoing and include both permanent and temporary network enhancements to handle what is likely to be unprecedented levels of data.

Be sure to catch history in the making with live, unfiltered, uninterrupted coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions on U-verse and DIRECTV.

Jul 13

Opposing Free Data is Elitist, Condescending and Harmful for Average Americans.

AIU-Atlanta-Jose-Marquez-LeonIn our increasingly complex and tech-dependent economy, even the most arcane government regulation can have a huge impact on average Americans. That is especially true for those with limited access to or experience with the new technologies they need to become fully integrated into the new economy.

Free data helps lower-income Americans bridge the digital divide that makes it harder for them to get ahead in our tech-dependent world. The federal government is supposed to make room for technological advancements that help Americans get ahead in life, not stand in their way.- Jose Marquez

 The latest attempt by activists to exert more control over internet traffic is a great example of how seemingly minor policies governing the high-tech sector can hurt Americans who are struggling to get ahead.

 For a while now, wireless providers have been partnering with service providers (such as Netflix) to offer free data to wireless customers. Under these free data agreements, you can stream content from certain providers and it will not count against your data usage. It is “free data.”

Though these arrangements are obviously great for lower-income Americans, some of the very people who claim to champion the disadvantaged have come out against them. These activists are so absorbed in their own theories that they cannot see the harm their application would cause, especially to minorities and the poor.

For Hispanics and African-Americans, free data offers a great way to stay connected on a budget. The poverty rate for non-Hispanic whites in the United States is 10 percent. For Hispanics it is 24 percent, for African-Americans 26 percent. Affording a mobile phone at all is a challenge, so any deal that allows users to stream content for free is most welcome.

To put this divide into numbers, the median household income for non-Hispanic whites in the United States is $60,256, according to U.S. Census data. For Hispanics, it falls to $42,491. For African-Americans it falls again to $35,398.

Frankly, the college-educated techies who advocate “net neutrality” so passionately can afford to live in their ivory tower bubble and indulge in fantasies about what a perfect internet would look like in a perfect universe where everything is free and everyone makes a ton of money.

The parents struggling to feed a family on $42,000 a year don’t have that luxury. For them, free data can make the difference between staying connected or being cut off from the digital world.

Free data can allow low-income families to actually save money by using their mobile devices for entertainment.

Like their higher-income counterparts, most low-income families already have a mobile phone for safety and accessibility reasons. Parents need to be reachable in case a prospective employer or the school nurse calls. While high-income families can afford whatever tech gadgets they want, low-income families have to make choices. With free data, the smart phone can become not an addition to other expensive tech devices, but a replacement for them.

Opposing free data because it does not conform to some ivory tower concept of “net neutrality” is elitist, condescending and harmful. Free data helps lower-income Americans bridge the digital divide that makes it harder for them to get ahead in our tech-dependent world. The federal government is supposed to make room for technological advancements that help Americans get ahead in life, not stand in their way.

Jose A. Marquez is the National President, CEO, and Founder of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA), a nonprofit organization that advocates on state and federal issues related to the role of Latinos in the technology sector.

This article originally appeared on Fox News Latino July 12, 2016 


Jul 11

Do We Need to Formally Re-Define News for the Digital Era?

newspaper-mobileLike it has done in almost every aspect of our lives, technology has undoubtedly changed the way we get our news and how we engage with news. Pew’s most recent State of the Media report revealed that 65 percent of people receive their news about the presidential election from digital sources, and more people are learning about it through social media than ever before. But the delivery of news isn’t the only thing that’s changed. The types of news content produced for those platforms has also evolved as online news aggregators, satirical and alternative news sites, memes, and viral videos took the spotlight and many print newspapers died. But with all of the digital sources out there now, what exactly is “news” today anyway? And how has the answer to that question changed over the last 20 years as mobile devices, social media sharing, and online news startups became the norm?In an attempt to answer this enormous question, we tapped Nikki Usher, a media professor at the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs, and Gabrielle Jackson Bosché, a millennial engagement expert who started the Millennial Solution, a consulting firm based in Washington, DC.“I think news has been defined historically as something that has a timeliness to it. It’s public information intended for public consumption, that is the core of it,” said Usher, who, in her research, has observed newsrooms from traditional print newspapers and television stations to the startups like Vox and Buzzfeed. But according to Bosché, the millennial generation is looking for news that is “countercultural.” Millennials want media content that will challenge them intellectually and present a counter-narrative to the status quo, she clarified.

“Because we have so much information out there now, we are almost challenging the internet to come up with these alternative ways of thinking about something,” said Bosché, who has studied the millennial generation for the past 10 years and authored three books on millennials.

But what about eyewitness journalism, or citizen journalism – the kind of information that gets shared through those digital and social devices we now all have? Is that “news?”

Citizen journalism has always been a part of journalism, explained Usher. Just take a look at some of the Pulitzer Prize winning photos taken by ordinary citizens that date back to the pre-digital era. “Anybody anywhere can capture an event,” she said, “however, not anybody anywhere can contextualize that event.” So audiences everywhere are performing that first step of the news cycle, which is bringing people to an event by capturing it and sharing it through technology, but they aren’t necessarily able to explain the substance and meaning behind that event. That’s where journalists come in. “There’s a place for both of those things in journalism. I think you’ll see newsrooms incorporate both in sophisticated ways more and more in the future,” said Usher.

On this type of citizen journalism, Bosché had a lot to say on behalf of millennials. Since this generation prides itself on questioning traditional institutions, said Bosché, millennials are looking for that additional layer of authenticity to the news that only normal everyday people can add. In other words, the stories that will register the most, the ones that hit the top of the news feed on those social media platforms, are the personal stories BEHIND the news – the ones where ordinary people post messages and stories on their own saying ‘I was there, this is what I saw.’

As for where the news cycle is headed, Bosché thinks the eyewitness journalism trend will continue. There will be more stories under two minutes in length, and stories that are much more personalized. Bosché also added that on the other side of journalism, there will be more “underproduced” stories that we will continue to see from people who are using their phones to cover an event, providing that additional layer of accountability to journalism.

But like Usher said, the core of the news, which is to convey and contextualize information to audiences as quickly as possible, hasn’t and probably won’t change. So perhaps no formal re-definition is needed. It’s just that the diverse forms of news are now much more accessible to people, allowing for more creative and innovative ways to engage audiences in what we have always called “news.” Wherever the news cycle is headed, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that we will continue to see news become more personalized in its delivery, and diverse in content, but also more participatory in nature, which, as Bosché said, adds that layer of accountability to journalism that audiences ultimately crave.

Jul 11

ICYMI: As it appears in The Hill – Racial anger is real, and we must work to heal it by Maria Cardona

maria-cardona-v3¡Ya basta! Enough is enough! The heartbreak America is feeling today has become all too common. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the young African American men who were shot by police officers in Louisiana and in Minnesota, and the five police officers who also lost their lives by sniper fire in the tragic aftermath of protests in Dallas, have become unbearable witnesses to an ugly, complicated racial imbroglio our country is in midst of, and of which we must find our way out.

But that way out cannot be paved by anger, resentment, revenge, hatred, or frustration. This is a trail that must be blazed by understanding, love, peace and forgiveness. And our leaders, in every community, from every movement, and on both sides of the aisle, must reflect this difficult dichotomy.


It is not an easy road to travel. The anger in communities of color is real. It must be acknowledged and dealt with in a real, solution-oriented manner.


The fact that young African-American and Latino men have a much greater chance of being shot by a police officer than their white counterparts is a statistic we should be ashamed of as a country.

And we need to fix it. It won’t happen overnight and it may get worse before it gets better, but this is what we must strive for.

It means we need better training for officers, more focus on deescalation and conflict resolution, more recruitment from the communities they serve, identification of best practices throughout police departments around the country and sharing of those practices. It means demilitarization of police departments. It means identifying repeat offenders among rank and file police officers and taking them off the beat if necessary.

Let’s face it – not everyone who is a police officer should be a police officer who is public-facing and policing our vast and diverse communities across the country.

It also means, however, understanding that the vast majority of police officers are good, brave, honorable people who put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public every day.

And many feel they have been under fire for some time, and literally were so in Dallas, where those who were targeted were also the ones who put themselves in the way of the sniper’s bullets to protect the peaceful protesters.

The families of young African-Americans, Latinos, the moms, the teenagers, teachers and mentors, the police officers, community leaders, faith leaders – each must understand they have a role to play and an important part of that role is to put themselves in the shoes of their perceived adversary, of the perceived offender, and take a look at the situation with fresh, new eyes.

It is crucial that we understand each other’s’ perspectives.

We will get nowhere if we don’t.

We also cannot divorce these tragedies from the persistent and frustrating but necessary debate on gun safety. The other statistic we need to be ashamed of is that every year there are 33,000 deaths due to guns in this country.

The seemingly infinite and easy availability of guns helps to perpetuate a culture of violence that cannot be dissociated from the tragedies we saw take place this week, and the countless tragedies and shootings that preceded them.

The fact that guns can way too easily get into the hands of criminals, even terrorists, is something we can fix. But it will take both sides coming together. It seems there has been some movement of late on this but there is still way too much intransigence on this issue.

Most Americans agree that expanded background checks are a good idea, as is keeping guns away from people on the no-fly list and from people who may have severe mental disabilities. This is not rocket science. This is the easy part of this complicated equation. Let’s deal with this, get it done and then get to the difficult endeavor of dealing with our race and criminal justice issues head on.

Our country’s strength and beauty is derived from our vast diversity. But that diversity should not be what divides us, it should be what unites us.

Our skin may be white, brown or black or any other array of color. But we all bleed red. And we all cry the same tears. My hope is that this past week, we all felt our hearts break collectively, that we all shed tears for Alton and Philando as well as the five officers who perished while doing their job.

My hope is that in our collective grief we can find a collective solution. Because enough is enough. ¡Ya basta!

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Her Twitter handle is @MariaTCardona

Jun 29

TechLatino Applauds Senator Warren on Her Stance on the Need for an Even Playing Field.

The following statement should be attributed to Jose Marquez-Leon, National President & CEO, TechLatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA):

 elizabeth-warren“TECHLATINO is thrilled that after months of brining awareness to Congress, Senator Elizabeth Warren has warned about the predatory Practices of Silicon Valley. We applaud the unwavering commitment of Senator Warren to the small minority tech businesses so they can have the opportunity to grow, create new jobs, and develop our new employees in tech.  

 Today U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren warned about the predatory practices of Silicon Valley, accusing the biggest tech companies of wielding their platforms as “a tool to snuff out competition.” Latinos have been particularly hurt by these practices, with minority-owned companies often edged out of the tech space by giants like Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. We applaud Senator Warren’s commitment to even the playing field. It’s time the tech industry stops closing off new opportunities for the new and upcoming products and minority companies –a problem that needs to be rectified.

 “The opportunity to compete must remain open for all new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world.” says Senator Elizabeth Warren.  

 “In the weeks ahead, it will be imperative for the FCC to act quickly and look at these practices addressed by Senator Warren. TechLatino is committed to helping our member’s small business, tech entrepreneurs and professionals –this will help level the playing field and make it easier for small businesses to operate, increase competition, and create opportunities for entrepreneurs to expand operations success. “Small and minority-owned firms across the nation should have the resources they need to thrive and further contribute to our nation’s economic renewal and this is a crucial first step.”

 About Techlatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association

Founded in 1997, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association activley promotes the economic growth of our nation’s latino tech entrepreneurs. Through its network of nearly 15 affiliated community-based councils, association and partnerships with non-profit organizations, LISTA advocates on behalf of the millions of Latinos in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, South America and Spain. To achieve its mission, LISTA conducts workshops and seminars, national business series, research, policy analysis, and technology awareness programs in order to provide a Latino perspective in many key areas in technology —  Helping Close the digital divide and giving opportunity to all.

Follow Us at @LISTA1  @techlatino  #Techmatters

Jun 28

Are Tech Companies Controlling What We See as News. (INFOGRAPHIC)

received_236391850045038For years now we have seen many tech companies grow, these are exciting times in our industry. However for us the Latino Community is still very dependent on spanish language newspapers. Now we are viewing and reading our news on new platforms like tablet and smartphones phone. Now our community relies on Facebook and other tech companies for their news. Facebook has taken in particular prompts significant concerns for us at LISTA whom are heavily involved in tech and policies which affect the Latino community. The world’s leading social network has grown and with such a large audience, Facebook has transformed how we receive news and information – and it’s time we consider the effect of this monopoly on news organizations. It is important for Latino/as and our leaders in government to closer look at all of what Facebook does with news and information, and demand greater transparency.

The ramifications of this can be profound. Local publications have long served as the glue that binds communities together. They have served as the microphone for voices that would otherwise be marginalized and the spotlight on the stories that seldom make it onto the front pages of major newspapers and magazines. Yet, we are being told that the silver lining is that journalism isn’t disappearing – and won’t be any time soon. Rather, it has just moved to an electronic form. Not only that, there are also more opportunities to tell more stories and express more opinions than ever before. Some have said that we should not mourn the loss of the local newspaper and that we should instead explore the myriad possibilities offered by the new media. Or so goes the mantra.

In reality, this upbeat vision obscures the threat that new media poses to community journalism. And that threat is coming from a most unlikely place – the popular social media platforms that so many of us love. Chief among them is Facebook.

FB Infographic _ LISTA

Like many other publishers who have recently written on Facebook’s growing power over the media and what Americans read, we too are alarmed with one company having such dominance in news aggregation. Online hubs like Facebook are able to engineer which stories catch on or don’t. And they’re able to decide by algorithmic fiat, which bylines, viewpoints and subject matter is promoted to the masses.

This is a new kind of power. It is unlike any power a media company has ever had before. A study last year reported that Facebook drove 43 percent of all the traffic to the top 400 news sites. That’s almost half coming from one powerful source!

What’s more, we don’t know how Facebook’s operations work. The tech company isn’t transparent in its methods. So we don’t know whether the viewpoints of Latino and African-American publishers are heard or if there is a bias against our views. Without knowing how Facebook’s “Trending Topics” or other algorithms are used in promoting stories, the owners of Latino and African American-owned newspapers, magazines and other media are left only to wonder why the stories our outlets produce are relegated to the margins – if they are acknowledged at all. Our readers are at the mercy of powers unheard and unseen as never before.

With 63 percent of Americans and 74 percent of millennials going to Facebook as their source of news, Facebook’s power is only likely to grow in the coming years. And there is something ironic about that. The mainstream media was once derided as unimaginative and monolithic, largely because it had long been dominated by three TV networks and a handful of newspapers in large cities. The Internet was supposed to change all that by bringing a diversity of viewpoints to the table. While this has indeed happened, the emergence of one or even a handful of powerful gatekeepers like Facebook raises profound questions about the nature of news in this country in the years to come.

With so much power in the hands of one company, we risk surrendering our own decisions about what is or isn’t newsworthy to a gatekeeper who may someday push only stories it deems worthy. And that’s a troubling possibility that should worry us all.

It is time regulators took a hard look at Facebook and its news aggregation and promotion practices in an effort to bring some much needed transparency to the new media king. The democratization of the media could be on a collision course with decidedly anti-democratic and arbitrary forces. Think of the proverbial tree that falls silently in the forest because no one is there to hear it. Will Facebook have the power to allow entire forests to fall without much notice?

Jun 24

What Virtual Reality Will Mean for Advertising

vrIt’s still early days, but virtual reality is quickly gaining mainstream attention. Global search interest on Google grew by nearly 4X in the last year.1 What will a future with virtual reality mean for advertisers, creators, and storytellers?

VR for everyone

Virtual reality used to be the stuff of science fiction. Today, it’s become a true reality. Why now? For one, the ubiquity and quality of mobile devices. With a simple piece of cardboard, we can now turn our smartphones into virtual reality headsets. Google has shipped millions of Google Cardboard viewers to help bring the VR experience to everyone. And, viewer in hand, there’s no shortage of content to watch. Every single video on YouTube can be viewed in VR, making it the world’s largest library of VR content.

This is giving many people all over the world their first taste of VR, and mainstream interest is growing; global search interest for virtual reality on Google has grown by nearly 4X in the last year.1

The technology has the potential to change our daily lives—from how we communicate to how we spend our leisure time. It’s early days, but it’s already happening, and now is the time for brands and creators to understand what it all means.

The promise of VR

Film used to be the most immersive storytelling medium. But even with the best, highest-resolution TVs, you’re still just watching. You’re not there. The promise of VR is what the industry calls “presence”—the feeling that you’re really somewhere else. VR cameras like Jump can capture the entire experience of a place—every corner, every angle. In the not-so-distant future, cameras like these will be capturing experiences all over the world. What does this mean for audiences? How about access to the best seats in the house at any event—floor seats at the NBA playoffs, a box at La Scala, front row at the Beyoncé show? Or the chance to visit the most beautiful places on earth, from the comfort of home? It’s the closest thing we have to teleportation, enabling deeper engagement than has ever been possible.

VR can also create a time machine of sorts. If we start recording the most interesting things that happen this year, then 20 years from now, we’ll be able to go back and experience it like we were there. These could be major global events or personal moments—a birthday party, a wedding, a first day of school. We’ll collect these memories like we do photographs—able to relay or relive them in an intensely vivid way.

At Google, Cardboard was our first step toward this future. Soon, our VR platform Daydream will enable even more powerful, mobile, high-quality experiences with a headset that’s comfortable at an accessible price. We’re also building mobile apps for VR like Google Play, Maps, and YouTube. To get a better sense of what VR is exactly, YouTube is actually a good place to start.

360-degree video vs virtual reality

On YouTube, we made a big, early bet on 360-degree video. This means viewers can see the video from every angle just by swiping or moving the phone or tablet around—no headset required. Uploads of 360-degree videos continue to grow and have doubled over the past three months. Brands are forging the way, using 360-degree video to film big events or get creative with ads. BMW used this technology for an ad featuring a 360-degree car race. The “School of Rock” musical created a 360-degree music video. AT&T simulated a car crash to drive home its phone safety message.


SCHOOL OF ROCK: The Musical – “You’re in the Band” (360 Video)


Virtual reality takes the 360-degree video experience a step further by adding depth. When viewed with a VR headset—not far from those red View-Masters you might have used as a kid—images become three-dimensional, which adds to the feeling of immersiveness. On top of that, spatial audio lets people listen to audio from all directions, just as in the real world.

The story is everywhere

For content creators, the potential of 360-degree video and VR is immense, but it’ll require a shift in thinking. VR lets viewers be active participants; they can look wherever they want. As Google’s principal VR filmmaker Jessica Brillhartputs it, the story is everywhere. So, rather than telling a story frame by frame, filmmakers need to build entire worlds.

This makes VR and 360-degree video an incredibly powerful tool to create empathy. When a viewer feels like they are there, they have a greater sense of the situation. Messages become more impactful.

On YouTube, creators are using the medium to create truly transportive experiences across sports, news, education, and fashion. Viewers can feel that tickle in their stomach when sitting in the cockpit of a jet in an acrobatic air squadron. The New York Times puts viewers in the shoes of displaced childrenaround the world. Virtual field trips let teachers take students places a school bus can’t. Fashionistas can get a front row seat at the latest runway shows from Jason WuHugo Boss, and Dior.


The BMW M2 – Eyes on Gigi Hadid (360° Video)


Artists are doing mind-blowing work with Tilt Brush, our new VR app that lets a user paint in 3-D space. It does away with the flatness of the page and lets an artist step into the drawing, as Disney animator Glen Keane describes it. “That doorway to the imagination is open a little wider,” he says.

Four questions for brands interested in VR

Virtual reality is no longer a novelty. It has real applications for brands today. But is it worth pursuing?

Here are some questions brands should consider before investing in VR technology:

Will VR give viewers an experience that they otherwise couldn’t have? The subject matter should truly take advantage of the medium—transport people to a place, immerse them in a world, and compel them to explore.

Could you give shoppers a better feel for your product? According to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLabshopping was the top reason worldwide smartphone users were interested in VR, with “seeing items in real size and form when shopping online” cited by 64% of respondents. This doesn’t just apply to retail brands. Cadillac is already using VR to create virtual dealerships.

Will your recording environment be rich with things to see? If you’re shooting in a simple white room with nothing on the walls, probably not. If you’re at a sports event or a music festival, there’s likely plenty to see.

Will viewers want to continue watching beyond the initial “That’s cool” moment? It can be a challenge to get viewers to stick around after a minute or so. Make sure you have a compelling hook that will keep them engaged.

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