Monthly Archives: June 2008

Framing eco-friendliness

Once, I was told that advertisement is a mirror of the society, but one that exaggerates some features.  This probably explains that when the social reality is surreal, the advertisement is heading in the same direction.  Here are some viral advertisement clips promoting eco-friendliness made by the Israeli branch of Mccann. Some of the clips are usually in Hebrew (HE) and some are in English (EN), however they are being sometimes removed from YouTube.  In the current batch, all clips are in EN:

Ride a bicycle (EN):

[HTML1]

Walk more (EN):

[HTML2]

Buy a hybrid (EN):

[HTML3]

Last updated: 7 July, 2008

Puzzled

I read about a website called Compete.  It provides comparative analysis of website traffic.  After trying the obvious Google vs. Yahoo vs. MSN and seeing Google and Yahoo as very close competitors (which was a little bit surprising), i thought about trying something less obvious.

Usually, websites in foreign languages are not tracked by this kind of websites, but I decided to try.  My comparison was the three major Israeli newspapers: Ynet vs. NRG (Maariv’s website) vs. Haaretz.  I know that at least Ynet and Haaretz have separate URLs for HE and EN versions, so what i compared were the HE URLs.  Also, Ynet is considered to be by far the leading online outlet in Israel, though i am not sure who holds the second place (in print that would Maariv).  Now, imagine my surprise when i got this:

According to this graph, Haaretz is by far the most visited (in terms of unique visitors) online outlet, Ynet is only second, and NRG (not surprisingly) the third.  But that is not all.  Here is the ranking comparison:

Again, Haaretz is in the lead, followed by Ynet (closer this time), followed by NRG.  Though i am not sure how to read this metric.  On the one hand it ranks sites based on the unique visitors metric, but the frame of reference is “the top one million websites in the U.S.”

Where it is getting more intuitive is in the comparison of the number of visits:

But even in that case, the gap between Ynet and Haaretz is not that significant, yet it is growing. Same goes with the length of stay (in minutes):

It looks like people tend to spend more time on Ynet and NRG, but not on Haaretz.  That is, again, counter-intuitive, because Haaretz usually has longer and more complex articles as opposed to sound bites on Ynet and NRG.  One explanation to that metric can be that people arrive to Haaretz’s homepage, but do not actually read.  Or, alternatively, there may be more content on the homepages of Ynet and NRG, compared to that of Haaretz.  So, people navigate away from the homepage to read the articles quicker on Haaretz.

In fact that is one of the more confusing parts for me in these metrics.  Do they account only for activity on the exact domain or on all its sub-domains as well?  Also, it is quite possible that many people have domains of their favorite newspaper saved as a bookmark or they choose it from the auto-complete line in the address bar.  In that case, some of the confusion with Ynet can be explained, as its homepage URL in auto-complete looks something like that: http://www.ynet.co.il/home/0,7340,L-8,00.html instead of a simple www.ynet.co.il (even though i just saw that this is not really the case with the new Firefox).

However we are not done with surprises yet. Here is a comparison of monthly attention each on the of website was getting in the last year:

This one is, again, a relative metric of time spent on a given domain with the refernce frame of “the total time spent online by all U.S. internet users,” which i find quite a confusing one.

Number of pages per visit is yet another surprise:

It seems that people tend to browse through NRG more than through Ynet.  However, this metric implies that they track not just the homepage, but also the rest of the inner pages, which highlights the puzzling aspect of previous results.

All in all, i found this excersise interesting, yet very confusing as it contrudicted the common wisdom i held so far.  This is why i kept on reading in order to find out how exactly they are getting their data.  So, i think my confusion was partly resolved when i read that they derive their information from a “sample of 2,000,000+ U.S. internet users” who gave them “permission to analyze the web pages they visit and ask them questions via surveys.”  So, on the other hand, that may explain the difference in popularity of the various outlets, but on the other hand, i am surprised that the Israeli websites in HE actually made it into their analysis (ranked among the first 60K out of a million websites).  So, i am still puzzled.

Welcome back

Hello everyone and thanks for checking the new home for “Think Macro”!

Thank you Josh for a quick response!  I am looking forward to making this richer in information, combining the site and the blog in one place.

Serious games

I saw a Washington Post article about an emerging trend of serious games.  It mentions a very interesting initiative called “Games for change“, which describes itself in the following way:

Games for Change (G4C) provides support, visibility and shared resources to individuals and organizations using digital games for social change. We provide special assistance to foundations and non-profits entering the field. Today, G4C acts as a national hub to help organizations network and develop videogame projects beyond their traditional expertise. Our members represent hundreds of organizations and include partners in the games industry, academia, nonprofits, local and state governments, foundations, the UN and artists.

They have a rather interesting website with many examples of serious games and it also seems that there is quite a vibrant community surrounding these issues.  They have a section of youth produced games, which currently has only one game and i could not really see how it was youth produced (but maybe i am missing something).  Nevertheless, the concept is interesting.

It also reminded that it’s been a while since wanted to post a note about (already not so) new project by Impact Games (creators of Peace Maker).  It’s called “Play the news” and it is kind of a dream league, but for news.  I’ve been following this project since its beta and i find it as an interesting approach to keep people interested in the world’s matters.  My only “worry” is that it seems (based on the discussions on the site) that at least the current pool of participants consists primarily of people who are already curious and knowledgeable about the world affairs.  It would be interesting to see how this idea flies among the youths, who are being blamed to become more disengaged, apathetic, and more.

Politics, popularity, and personalization

I already said that i love DC. Another reason to love it, are the many opportunities offered by this city.

A week ago or so, i participated in a debate/discussion about “new” media and political campaigns hosted by Google and National Journal and titled “The First 21-st Century Campaign“. Being hosted by Google, the event attracted some very interesting people and was held in a format of discussion rather than a traditional (academic) presentation-style lectures. Unfortunately, i wasn’t smart enough to bring a camera even though the event was absolutely open and the organizers even encouraged people capturing it in any possible way. Another unfortunate thing was that i couldn’t stay for the entire event and in fact stayed only for the first panel (out of three).

Ad of the Google's June Symposium

Fortunately, though, the first panel was very thought provoking.  Nothing super controversial or innovative has been said, but it was great to hear thet the industry people are concerned with the same issues that academics are.  Actually, i think the panel would benefit from a visionary academic person who could bring the entire discussion under a comprehensive (dare I say, macro) umbrella.

The first panel, moderated by Judy Woodruff of PBS, hosted Mark Halperin (“Time” – as a representative of the old media), Katherine Ham (Townhall.com, even though she announced she has a new job now), James Kotecki (Politico – he and Katherine were the representatives of “new” media), Phil Singer (Clinton campaign), and Kevin Madden (Mitt Romney campaign _ he and Singer were the political practitioners on the panel).

Most of the discussion focused on the tensions between the “old” and the “new” media.  In my view it started pretty awkward with Kotecki’s remark that he doesn’t see himself as a journalist and was (i got a sense that he was implying that he still is) making his video just to feel popular.  It was particularly stonning because one of the main points of the discussion was credibility of the “new” media as a journalistic practice.  Kotecki himself was making claims for being credible, which (together with some of the other comments, such as those made by Singer) got me thinking whether or not the 2.0 culture equates credibility to popularity.  If so, i find that idea pretty disturbing.  One the one hand, i can buy into the idea of wisdom of crowds (that’s the term i think), but, on the other hand, i cannot buy into dismissal of expertise that seems to be attached to it (at least in the current discussion).

Another interesting point came from the campaign people and it was primarily about the use they make of information.  For Madden, the “new” media were all about speed and precision of the media message.  Even though they never got talking explicitly about how they use microtargeting (even though i raised that questions), it was constantly implied in the examples they provided.  Building of the idea of popularity, it was now also the ability of precise targeting of the message.  I would describe that as an ability of talking about “popularities” rather than a single popularity.  To a a degree that appeared as a distinction between the “old” and the “new” media as well.  I found the latter rather interesting – the basic concepts mass (popularity) did not change, but progressed and evolved (into popularities), but the substance became implicitly even less important.  In other words, there is no substantive change in the policy or in the ideas, but the package is more personalized.

As the discussion evolved, it became more interesting and sophisticated.  To one degree or another, the panelists touched upon many relevant points.  This highlight was, I think, when Singer or Halperin, noticed that the mere division between the “old” and the “new” was artificial.  Ham also was very sharp when talking about the relations between the “old” and the “new” media (even though she was clearly advocating for the legitimacy of the latter).  I found this particularly interesting, because usually you hear a very deterministically-dichotomous discourse where the “new” is presented as separate and mostly superior to the “old”.  Even though Judy Woodruff finished the panel with some techno-utopian remarks (mostly as a tribute to the host), it did spoil the overall flavor of complexity.

On the practical level i came out of this symposium with two titles for potential books.  Not that i plan on writing those this summer, but… If i were to write a book with critical analysis of the modern Western society, particularly focusing on the youth, i would title it “The popularity generation.”  Maybe there is such a book already and maybe it will become the label of generation Y with all the reality shows and a myriad of televised competitions (for popularity of course :).  The other book would be about this campaign, or about contemporary politics in a broader sense.  That one i would title “The politics of personalization.”

Finally, kind of getting back to one of my first points, i think the symposium would really benefit from an academic input.  Maybe even more broadly, i think this industry could learn as much from the academia as the academia is learning from it.  At the end of the day, all the points raised by the panelists are being discussed and studied, and bringing those inputs would enrich the discussion and probably take it into the next level.

You can read a short post following the event on Google’s blog or you can actually watch the entire thing on C-Span (and enjoy me asking some questions :).

The AP drama

I just learned about a currently developing online drama.  Associated Press (AP) decided that they are going to charge bloggers and anyone who cites their content.  The tariff is $2.5 a word or $12.5 for five words.  Now, as I understand it, if I post here a title of AP’s article with a link to it, I will have to pay, and if i cite anything from their article and provide a link to it, i will still have to pay.

AP are explaning this move in copyright terms and are apparently threatening to sue some bloggers. Frankly, I am finding it really difficult to follow their logic.  If they don’t want people to cite and link to their content, why are they making it available online?  Either I am missing some huge point here, or peole at AP don’t understand the “rules of the game” they are into.

Dieing newspapers?

It seems to be a commonly shared believe these days that the traditional newspaper is dieing. However, it seems that it is not true everywhere. According to this Financial Express article, newspaper sales in India have increased by 11.2% in 2007 and by 35.51% in the last five years. More, counter-commonly-shared-wisdom cited in the article regards the advertising market for printed news. Although, the article suggests that in the last year the newspaper advertising revenues in India witnessed a decline of 1.42%, in the last five years they grew by 64.8%.

I know very little (or should i say “nothing”) about the Indian newspaper market, but i wonder if our understanding of Western media markets is completely adaptable to the developing world and/or to significantly different cultural settings?

Of course, one could suspect that the body that produced that statistics is biased. It is the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), which obviously has its own interests. For example they cite a rise of 2.57% in paid-for newspaper circulation world-wide in 2007 (9.39% worldwide), which sounds really contrary to what we usually hear in media. Nevertheless, i think it is an interesting and thought provoking information.

What do you think?

Energy

I read an interesting post on TechBlorge and decided to share it. Following is an image of a table comparing energy consumption of various gadgets many of us are using. So, if you wonder how much your wireless router or the speakers of your computer cost you annually, this comparison provides a perspective.

Energy consumption by home gadgets

The image is taken from here and you may want read more on it here. Interesting….

Things you can do Wii with

A while ago i wrote about things you can do with Wii. Now i learned about a group of young Israelis, Veronica’s former colleagues, who created a software that allows you to make Wii using a regular webcam. The product is called CamSpace and they have already registered a company that is promoting it. Check out their video and feel free to sign up for beta-testing. I think it is very impressive!