Changes In My Media Consumption

The fast development of communications technology is quickly democratizing the central control of media power held by a few traditional media conglomerates and releasing it to a vast array of emerging new media platforms. These new media platforms have adopted a simple but more efficient persona encompassing everything from the contentproduction to product consumption. Like Clay Shirky mentioned in his article The Collapse of Complex Business Models, online video platforms like Youtube have revolutionized a simple and cost-effective way to produce media content that can be shared from person to person,and poked many holes in the complex and expensive traditional media ecosystem. These new platforms are changing people’s media consuming habits and also challenging traditional media platforms in an unprecedented way. I have seen my own media consumption habits shifting from traditional platforms to digital media platforms (and several more shifts happening between the digital media platforms themselves) in the past year.

News Content Consumption: From Traditional News Media Portals, to Blogs, to Real Time Information Network

Just two years ago, I was was getting my daily dose of news online, mainly from traditional media’s news portals and blogs. But beginning last year, the rise in prominence of Twitter and other information/social network sites in generating news in real time by citizen journalists has brought a new way for me to consume news. I could also track the trends of what was happening in a certain location on these platforms in real time, and could even make educated predictions about how future events would unfold as a result of these trends. Also, instead of seeking out news by myself, the news got pushed to me by my friends or the media I subscribed to on these social networks, thus news I accessed was more relevant to me and more likely to get my attention and fulfill my needs.

Entertainment Content Consumption: From Offline TV/Movie Theater to Online Platforms on Laptop/Mobile Phone

For my entertainment media content consumption, emerging online video platforms like Youtube and Hulu have become my new destinations for content, and they are replacing traditional TV and even movie theaters in my life. The vast universe of media content in these two databases and the sheer control it puts in its users’ hands—I can choose what time to watch what content– has won them tremendous advantages over traditional TV and movie theaters. Youtube and Hulu also offer a new freemium model of distributing media content. I do not need to pay for cable or movie tickets for the consumption of media, instead I can get the content for free or for the price of spending a bit of time and attention on online ads embedded in the videos. Even though there is a one or two day delay from the show being aired on TV to it being put up on Hulu, the aforementioned two advantages have made the wait worthwhile. Also the content has been broken down from atoms to bits: I went from consuming one music album to a single song, from one TV channel to a specific TV show, or even to several seconds-long clips of a TV show. Besides simply taking in content and information on these platforms, I can post my own content, comment, or vote on other people’s content and become part of the production force. It is a two-way street for me and everyone else to become a content creator and also consumer; I also consume much more user-generated media content than professional content on these new social media platforms.

Other Media Content and the Future: Everything is being digitized and migrating from offline outlets to online platforms.

I read less and less book content from actual paper books, but I read the digital copies of book on my laptop, mobile phone or on Kindle. I predict this trend to be continued in the future, and the devices that I consume digital media content on will become smaller and nimbler, and more and more mobile. And I can also see the media content I consume will be divided into smaller and smaller segments, from atoms to bits, which will help me get what I need more conveniently.

SEO, here we go!

Ever since I started to try to looking beyond a website’s surface appearance and dig deeper, I have consistently run into the mysterious word “SEO” (search engine optimization). Now I am very excited that my APOC class has provided us a chance to learn this concept systematically, as I truly believe that in a world of immense information, the search engine, which provides the road map for people to find your content online, is critical for successfully delivering your content to people that would find it of interest. According to many social media expert like Chris Anderson, content is not the king anymore. Context is, and search engines match things in the right context and help people find it.


Here are five tactics I came up with, at the threshold of the big SEO universe, to improve my blog “Social Media Is Great”. 2 months after it has launched, I am very happy to see the site’s has been indexed by Google for 49 times and by Yahoo for 3 times. I still have a long way to go, but at least the site is searchable through these two popular search engines now.

The first tactic is to sort the meta elements of my blog and add a meta description for my website, basically, talking to the search engine’s robot head directly, hoho. If I can more clearly describe what my blog is about, the search engine can better categorize it and search for it.

The second one would be sorting the content of my blog and taking careful note of the words I put in my article content and titles to make it easier for the search engines to recognize. I should think more carefully about what specific words I choose, because certain words may be more “hot” than others, and come up more in search results.

Third, I add tags to my article. I currently have used labels to tag and categorize my blog posts, but have not done it systematically. I think much more effort could be put here to browse through my posts and see what tags may frequently come up. That way I can have a deeper library of tags within my own blog.

Also, trying to exchange links with other sites and getting my name out there. Thanks to my APOC peers, our blog links have been exchanged a lot, but let’s keep it up! We can all help each other by linking and creating more “buzz” for everyone!

Besides that, I have been using many pictures in my blog, so remembering to add ALT tags to these images is another great way to directly talk to the search engines and let them know what my blog is posting about.

SEO, there is still so much to learn, and I am really looking forward to it!

Four New Media Journalism Forays Into L.A.’s Local Communities

In the past two months, I have been lucky to sit in on four Annenberg noon seminars that have all explored a common theme: how journalism equipped with new media technologies could better serve local communities, and what opportunities new communication technologies have brought to many previously media under-served communities in the Greater Los Angeles area. I was glad to see that even though new media has, to a large extent, facilitated the globalization process and shifted people’s focus to a bigger scope, yet under this globalization context, our local communities are not being ignored but are instead being injected with vitality through the innovative usage of new communication technologies.

Alhambra Project

This project is under the umbrella of the USC Annenberg Metamorphosis and Intersections project. The project’s early research of the media supply in the area revealed a lack of common storytelling networks that bridge local ethnic groups together, thus leading to a low civic engagement rate in the area. The project thus will focus on building a shared multi-lingual storytelling network for Alhambra‘s diverse ethnic local residents, and hopes to increase the low civic engagement rate in Alhambra and also explore a new model for supplying media in culturally diverse local communities in the United States.

AOL‘s Patch:

AOL’s Patch.com has committed $50 million to build a nationwide network of hyperlocal news sites. At the seminar, Marcia Parker, the west coast editorial director of Patch.com, claimed that the site is robustly growing and opening more and more branches in many cities, so L.A. is a new battle ground. They are also currently scouting for community reporters who are rooted in L.A.‘s local communities and will bring 100 percent community-flavored news to their site and to their audience.

Radio Bilingue

Through L.A. Public Media Service Radio Bilingue‘s research data, they found out currently in L.A. there are over 1 million minority ethnic groups that are undeserved with news information. They are very aggressively ready to jump into fill this gap with information. Also, they would take a multimedia platform approach to bringing their news and content online and deliver to mobile channels! Talent needed!

The South Los Angeles Report

This one is another USC Annenberg Metamorphosis and Intersections project. This very cool project works on increasing local citizen’s media advocacy to help them produce news for themselves! By conducting workshops in South Los Angeles communities to equip local citizens with basic journalist report skills, the USC South Los Angeles Team has inspired many local residents to produce interesting content for The South Los Angeles Report website. Definitely check out this great piece of video news, What Our Tax Dollars Pay For, produced by South LA resident Delores Kelly after she attended one workshop. It is a fairly raw piece, but you can not miss the authenticity and advocacy power conveyed by it!


Happy Chinese New Year, Especially to Palm

Happy Kaixin001.com 🙂

Poor Palm 😦

Chinese New Year just took place over the past three-day weekend. According to Chinese customs, this holiday lasts for two weeks after New Year’s Day on the Chinese lunar calendar, and people will celebrate each day with different celebrations and rituals. Right now the entire country is still immersed in the holiday spirit.

Besides the New Year festivities, there has been some other interesting news coming out of China. About a week ago, there was much speculation that Palm’s mobile phone business was in trouble after news leaked out that Palm was going to halt manufacturing of their Pre and Pixi phones in China for at least the next two weeks in February. Yes, Palm has been facing strong competition in the mobile market, but their situation is not that dire yet. Palm had to release a press statement to clear up these rumors, and state that the pause in production was simply because it was Chinese New Year in China, and their workers were getting the holiday off. Seeing this news, I had very mixed feelings, and also suddenly had the urge to start a weekly column to write about news from China, hoping this would provide a window for viewers to get to know more about Chinese culture and the business environment there. In the future if you see speculation similar to what Palm had to deal with, maybe you can laugh at it, since you already know this time of year is Chinese New Year.

One other tidbit about China came my conversation with a friend who is currently doing research about the Chinese Social Network environment. She interviewed the founder of the “Chinese Facebook”, Kaixin001.com, and she was told that during the past two years since Kaixin001.com was launched in late 2007, the user base has been growing exponentially and reached 90 million at the end of 2009. Growing up in China, I was fully aware of the huge population and the hot market there, but I was still very astonished by this figure.90 million in two years! People must be rushing to this website, and this number is for sure going to multiply in the next couple of years.

Another popular Chinese social network site, Renren.com, which targets a younger demographics like college students in China, has also gathered tons of people. What is more, it has also successfully monetized its huge user base. Besides the revenue generated from traditional ads and selling virtual goods, it also limits the number of friends people can add for free to 1000; anyone who wants to have more than 1000 friends must upgrade to a VIP account, which costs about 10 RMB per month (less than 2 US dollars). With the VIP account, you can add as many friends as you want and incorporate personalized backgrounds and other features to your page. Many of my friends are spending the 10 RMB each month on their accounts. Also for all the brands and companies that want to target more than 1000 fans, they have to pay for this VIP account as an entry fee.

Right now, the two biggest social network sites in China have also been proven to be worthy of investment, and have successfully attracted many brands and social groups either through fan pages or through creative means like embedded game elements and charging you for adding more friends. After five years of existence, Facebook finally reported profits last year. And if people are still skeptical about how social network sites can make money, they should look no further than China. Even though these Chinese social network sites were originally copycats of Facebook, I think they really have built something that their western counterpart may want to take a look at now.

My Mental Entanglement: Kindle vs iPad

(Kindle photo taken from http://bit.ly/c55IJW)

(The Apple iPad Photo: HO/REUTERS)

This past Christmas, I was thinking about buying a Kindle as a Christmas gift for a friend and also for myself. After spending a lot of effort to resist the tempting ad on the center of Amazon’s front page claiming the Kindle was the most popular gift, I finally decided to wait. Why? Because I just could not persuade myself to get such a single-function device in a multi-function world, and I believed there would be something incorporating more useful functions and at least, be more colorful.

Now comes the long-awaited iPad, yet somehow I still miss the days when it was still a mysterious “Apple iTablet”, a product of rumors and imagination. All sorts of great hopes were placed on this magic device; to some extent, these expectations have far exceeded any e-reader. I have to admit that, at that time, like many intrigued people, I did not actually have a clear idea what I was really looking for in an “iTablet”, but instead just had vague ideas that it would be a powerful entertainment center; a slick notebook that allows us 24/7 internet-access; a heaven-crafted device that would bring us into a totally new media-consuming era.
When the iPad finally arrived, there was no surprise why it disappointed so many people. According to Apple itself, it was something meant to fill the market gap between the iPhone and Notebook, and Apple believed there was a gap between the two. This original positioning explains why it only incorporates certain functions and disables other ones. But unfortunately, most electronics consumers do not quite feel there is a gap there, and this miscalculation of the market is the primary source for the product’s potential failure. At the same time, because most people do expect the iPad to be functional and replace their notebook, and to be mobile enough to beat the iPod Touch, much dissatisfaction is in the air. Yes, people want a keyboard, people want a camera, and people want more 3G carriers (or at least, anything but AT&T). Even though Apple tried to define the iPad as capable of being an e-reader and web browser, and tried to demonstrate its effectiveness at these tasks, many people’s requirements for the iPad have already exceeded the device’s actual designs.
At this point in time, like all the other unsatisfied iPad would-be-customers, I definitely would not buy an iPad, at least not this first generation model. But would I go back to the Kindle? I do not know either. The backlash against the iPad has helped me to appreciate Kindle’s simplicity as being an e-reader. At least people who buy the Kindle know what they want it for. But do I want a device to just read books? I have to admit, originally I just wanted an e-reader, but now the cat is out of the bag, and I can hardly go back now.

Three Very Distinctive Communities

In the past two days, three very distinctive communities came into my view:
Amish Community
The first one is the Amish community in the U.S, introduced by Professor Dmitri Williams in the Thursday night’s class. We watched part of a documentary movie, ” Devil’s Playground”, which depicted this community’s lifestyle and beliefs. It was the first time I had heard of this group, and I was very amazed by their existence in modern society, by how they have excluded themselves from modern technology and have tried to fulfill all their social needs from their tight-knit communities and religion.
Chinese American Community
The second one is the Chinese American community in L.A.. Since I got to L.A.last fall, I have spent much time (in a lot of Chinese restaurants) in the San Gabriel area, an area which is packed with many Asian ethnic groups, and Chinese Americans make up a big group here. Even after five months, I still cannot get over the shock and big “WOW” that pops into my mind every time I enter a Chinese restaurant in the area. Every restaurant is full of Chinese people, from first-generation immigrants (or FOBs, as my friends have nicknamed them, for “fresh off the boat”) to local Chinese Americans who were born here, they talk in all kinds of Chinese dialects and enjoy a diversity of Chinese cuisine, with more choices than I ever saw in a typical Chinese restaurant in China. When I dine in these restaurants, I always have a moment of doubt of whether I am back in China.
Also, tonight, on my way back from a Chinese restaurant in the Alhambra area, I heard an interesting complaint from a Chinese American friend who grew up in the area. He told me how all the previously existing American supermarkets in the area had been replaced, one by one, by Chinese supermarkets over nearly ten years. These Chinese supermarkets offer you every local authentic Chinese seasoning and everything you need to make you feel life is the same as when you were in China. But as a kid growing up in America, he felt upset that he could no longer find a store nearby to get his favorite American snacks like string cheese and macaroni. As the car passed by a Chinese supermarket, he pointed it out and exclaimed that it was once a Vons supermarket, and the sad part was: when it still existed, it did make an effort in opening an aisle dedicated to Chinese seasonings and foods to cater to the local Chinese customers. But this effort did not save it from being swamped by the Chinese supermarket wave that flooded this area. At that moment, I was very amused by his sad yet funny tone, and I was also really intrigued by how the Chinese community’s power in transforming pre-existing areas to adapt to their own culture. I am sure future generations will feel more and more absorbed and assimilated to the main stream American culture, but I am pretty interested in how a culture can preserve itself in a new environment.
China’s Wealthiest Village: Huaxi Village

The third example comes from a piece of news I saw showcasing a “model socialism commune” in China, Huaxi village, which claims to be the richest village in China, even richer than many large cities. Even though I grew up in a socialist country, during the years I was growing up, China was experiencing a huge wave of reform and opening. People are encouraged and allowed to have their own private property and to create wealth for themselves through hard work, so seeing this real “socialism community” at Huaxi village and how it worked out sounded like a very novel concept for me.
I found more about this village from this Guardian (UK) article, “In China’s richest village, peasants are all shareholders now – by order of the party“. Two excerpts from the article bellow will show the very surreal traits of this village:
“Located about 100 miles north of Shanghai in Jiangsu province, Huaxi has been described in the domestic media as both a “paradise” and a “dictatorship”. While its residents are nominally richer than any other community, they have less time and freedom to spend their money. Bars and restaurants close before 10pm so that workers do not oversleep. Holidays are scarce. And villagers get little cash from their paper assets. Eighty per cent of their annual bonus and 95% of their dividend must be reinvested in the commune. If they leave the village, this paper wealth disappears. “
“None went as far as Huaxi in combining the strict political control of the ruling Communist party with the get-rich-quick economics of the market – and the results are being hailed as a model for the nation to follow. To demonstrate how good that cocktail is supposed to make the locals feel, “Huaxi Road” is decorated with smiling pictures of every family in the village. Each household’s assets are listed in detail: size of the family, value of their property, average level of education, number of members of the Communist party, as well as how many cars, mobile phones, televisions, washing machines, computers, air-conditioning units, motorbikes, cameras, fridges and stereo systems they own. “
Just look at the picture below that shows how uniformly the community is built. Insane, right?
These community models out there seem so fascinating to me, and my head is full of questions about what is behind these different types of communities that make them all work for their local residents, even though they sometimes look so insane and novel to us outsiders?