Don’t get too comfortable

I’m a pretty organized person. I like to plan ahead and may be slightly obsessed with to-do lists (otherwise, I would forget everything). But this course taught me more than the basics of mass communication and how to blog.  It taught me to accept change and live in the present.

You might say what a cliché statement often dramatically used when reflecting back on one’s life. But I mean it literally – in the journalism field you cant get too comfortable.

Generally, I look forward to the routine handing out of a syllabus on the first day of class. While in Professor Robinson’s class we were handed a syllabus, it had no specific schedule of when we would discuss what topic. It simply outlined the basics of mass communication and gave a broad list of topics that we would tackle along the way. At the time, I was a bit concerned but looking back it made sense.

Why attempt to follow an outline of mass communication topics when they can simply present themselves along the way? The majority of our discussions were relevant news that tied into the objectives of the course and in no way could have been printed in a syllabus back in January.  Looking back, I can relate the unstructured syllabus metaphorically to the disruption of mass communication. This industry is constantly changing and we have to take it as it comes.

How many times did we relate back to Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter in class discussions.  While we were excited about updates presenting new features, we focused on more than just the technological aspect of these social media platforms – we focused on the communication aspect.

Twitter, for example, was the communication handle of a nationwide news story that just so happened to hit close to home.  The tragic shooting of three students near UNC’s campus opened the doors for so many discussions, most commonly seen trending on Twitter.

Snapchat disappointed us all when it removed the best friends feature but opened our eyes to the fads of social media. Ten years down the road, will Snapchat still exist? Will we continue communicating with our friends with the brief flash of a photo?

Facebook shocked us with its presentation of the Matrix.  Augmented reality headsets may not be in our homes tomorrow, but was Google Glass the start of something big?

All of these topics resonated with me enough for me to blog about them along the way, but the most important thing I learned from this class is what brings them all together. Morgan outlined it perfectly in a list of takeaway points – most important being that mass media is forever changing. So, before you get too comfortable with the newest technological updates, remember that something better is already in the works.

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Cutting the cord

After its mention in class, I decided to explore the idea of cutting the cable cord and turning to personalized TV. Sling TV is a service offered for $20 a month with no contract and the ability to watch on various online devices. It was newly released in early 2015 but isn’t the first of its kind. Many entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the downfall of cable to introduce something even better – selective channels for a much lower price.

Of the thousands of television channels I have access to, I honestly only ever switch between five of them, tops. For the most part, I access the shows that I watch on a weekly basis from another streaming option like Hulu or Netflix. The amount of people who still watch live TV has diminished immensely and is expected to continue to decrease over the next few years. While the demand is decreasing, the price is increasing. Therefore, companies like Sling have grabbed onto a great opportunity to enter the market and change the way we watch TV.

What differentiates Sling from Hulu and Netflix is the ability to watch live TV in addition to streaming. Have we finally reached the time when traditional TV is becoming obsolete? Our fast-paced lifestyles don’t allow us the leisure to watch TV as we used to – we want what we want, when we want it, and where we want it. Why use your spare hour watching a random show when you can access the ones that you want to watch? This mindset has completely changed the way all of us watch TV and will continue to grow in the future. I’m not necessarily planning on parting with Time Warner Cable anytime soon, but in the future I could definitely warm up to the idea of a service like Sling. I am looking forward to watching its success over the coming years.

Emoji updates

This week has been all about the emojis. Apple has caught on that people of all races use emojis daily (DUH) and has finally met their demands to diversify the emoji faces. With the newest iOS update, users can pick from 300 new emojis. Of these 300, there is a range of six different skin tones and ethnicities.

On the other hand, Snapchat is trying to hop on the emoji bandwagon as well. But, are they trying to confuse us further or help us, who knows? Personally, I’m not a fan. I feel like a list of several emojis next to each of my Snapchat friend’s name is a little unorganized and distracting. Maybe just because it’s new I’m still unfamiliar with them but I have had to look up the emoji “meanings” several times out of confusion. The emojis used have pretty ambiguous faces. How am I supposed to infer that a teeth gritting emoji means you share the same best friend?

This introduction of emojis in Snapchat further proves the point that emojis are becoming a means of communication in themselves. No words necessary. Quick and to the point. Why type out your feelings when you can select an image that represents them? Although I am not a fan of Snapchats use of emojis, I am a fan of their existence. Additionally, by implementing emojis, Snapchat will be able to unify its users. Now, because Snapchat gives one meaning to a specific emoji – that is what others around the globe will use for that meaning. Emojis are a means of unifying cultures by introducing specific meanings to each one.

VR – the future of journalism

Don’t get too comfortable – while everyone is fussing over mobile disruption and its impact on the news industry, a new technology is on the horizon. Virtual reality will change the way we receive news by essentially living it. Who wants to read about a war abroad, an upcoming event, or even the weather when you can actually live it?

With the help of brands like Microsoft, Google, Oculus, Samsung, Sony, Facebook, etc virtual reality headsets will be available sooner rather than later. When I picture virtual reality headsets, I imagine something along the lines of a video game coming to life, not a display of what would currently be printed in the form of a newspaper. When you think about it though, it just makes sense. If these companies can create a real-time view or a collection of footage and audio that allows the user to feel as if they are a part of the action, why wouldn’t that become our new go-to for news?

Nonny de la Peña has been deemed the “godmother of VR” and is ushering in this new form of immersive technology. She has created several pieces allowing viewers to experience the emotions of the scene as if they were a part of it. De la Peña first worked on Project Syria, attempting to raise awareness for Syrian children refugees by having people witness the hardships they endure on a daily basis.

What I didn’t realize is that virtual reality isn’t necessarily a new idea, its simply becoming more affordable. Now that the technology necessary for these headsets is small and cheap enough, it has the potential to be a popular item in homes worldwide.  Oculus Rift, the crowdfunded VR headset, was just sold to Facebook for $2 billion. If Facebook, the social media network of our time, sees a potential in this industry shouldn’t we? It may be a few years before I have a VR headset in place of a TV but I’m very curious, and optimistic, to see where this technology will take us in terms of journalism.

Modernize for millenials

“Millenials, a group that has brought a whole new meaning to the concept of short attention spans.”

The flack millenials receive due to their short attention spans are not necessarily a flaw, more of an inherent characteristic in today’s digital age. Our short attention spans are affecting how we use the internet, study, and now how we should be trained? Advertising companies are realizing their methods must adapt to the genetically wired short-term attention span of millenials in order to grab their attention. As the Adweek article points out, why don’t companies take the same approach teaching millenials as they do reaching them?

Annalect decided to experiment with this and change the way learning and development is structured to adapt to millenials’ brains. Rather than throwing pages and pages of information into the faces of trainees, the goal was to structure the process to cater to the strengths and preferences of millenials. Information was presented in short, blog-like tones and featured highly interactive quizzes and other activities.

“Old tactics are kryptonite for today’s attention spans,” says Julie Veloz.

Is the advertising industry the first to reach this realization? Is the way companies are training millenials completely contradicting the technologically advancing tasks they are taking on? I think this revelation is one that needs to be implemented sooner rather than later. Why complicate the training process when companies can simply alter it?

BBC-Minute

Rather than try to force the newspaper into the hands of millenials, BBC is changing the way news is delivered. Specifically, BBC is introducing BBC Minute – a one-minute news bulletin aimed at the younger population. This broadcast is meant to target the population who generally have no interest in radio broadcast news. Is this a lost cause or will this be millenials new on-the-go news?

BBC Minute will cover news, sports, technology, fashion, and music. It will be updated twice an hour, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The broadcast will be featured on BBC online, iTunes and other digital platforms, and on music stations in Africa and the Philippines.

In my opinion, this is a less effective version of the Skimm. Both have the same idea, but are reaching the same generation in a completely different way. Besides those who would access this broadcast via BBC’s website, BBC Minute would be presenting news on a completely different platform than what millenials are used to using. Our generation’s limited use of the radio is generally only to the extent of which we are in the car – this presents an issue. When I read the Skimm, I like to have a list of briefly explained topics with the ability to click a link and read further on those that interest me. In the situation of BBC Minute, users would not always have the ability to access further information about the topics while driving or multitasking with the radio on.

My concerns may only be due to my complete disinterest in the radio, but I think presents a valid point. I understand BBC is attempting to reach out in a new way but will it be as effective as predicted? Personally, I would rather stick to reading the news online or accessing the site from my phone. I don’t foresee myself heading to iTunes to access news or even searching for the broadcast on BBC’s website even if I was already on it. I’m a die-hard Skimm fan and may be stuck in my ways but I am curious to see if BBC-Minute takes off and if it is successful with its target demographic or if it will be more utilized among the typical radio-using generation.

GroupMe

GroupMe – one of my favorite apps, although it KILLS my phone battery, that is revolutionizing the way millenials connect with their friends. Back in the day, when I wanted a play date with my friend I would pick up my house phone, dial her number (which I knew by heart) and speak to her personally. Now, I send a message out to a group of people and our plans are set in a matter of seconds.

Honestly, I could barely tell you my sisters phone number, let alone individually dial the numbers of my friends in my group text. This embarrassing, but true confession is why people are concerned about millenials’ communication skills – and they have a right to be. I am not here to say that these tendencies are wrong, just different.  I fully believe that the ease of cell phones is perpetuating communication not hindering it.

It had never even dawned on me that other people aren’t on the GroupMe bandwagon. Naïve, I know, but I just assumed that is how EVERYONE our age communicates with their friends. When my group project suggested we make a GroupMe to communicate about the assignments throughout the semester, it never dawned on me that some of the members may not use GroupMe or even know what it was. I just assumed this app is a universal means of communication among college students. I was wrong. After many discussions we realized a group member of ours was removed from the group due to inactivity. It wasn’t her ignoring us, it was her not having the app. Have we really reached a point where it is just common assumption everyone uses group apps as their main source of communication or was that just an oversight?

I don’t think our heavily reliant use of GroupMe, or similar apps, will turn into a “problem,” it just changes the way that we expect to be reached. I am much more willing to open a message in GroupMe than read an email. Even though the two apps are side by side on my phone, GroupMe is just my go-to information source. Who cares if my friends are commenting on trivial things or sharing dumb links, its my way of “hanging out” with them in a virtual sense.

Snapchat at it again

Watch out Facebook, Snapchat is also expanding its services. While Facebook is incorporating a mobile pay service, Snapchat announced its plans to introduce a music label in which it would promote its artists through the app. This seems to be a trend among social media brands – are they catching on to something?

In order to be the most popular and most successful social platform is it not enough to only offer one type of service? We saw Snapchat incorporate messaging and then came the addition of Snapchat Discover, offering a variety of news sources. How much further can this app expand?

Now with the announcement of a music label, Snapchat users will have to wait and see. Although this seems to be the direction these apps are moving in, it honestly concerns me. I understand the concept of convenience but there is also a reason I use several different apps for different purposes. I trust Facebook to be my go-to picture source, Spotify to stream music, and Snapchat to send disappearing photos. Even if there was one app with all of my favorite features combined, would I actually use it? Take the introduction of Snapchat messager for example. I have yet to actually use it to communicate with my friends. Why would I when I have so many other options to contact them? I don’t use Snapchat’s Discover as my news source, I generally rely on Twitter. The “inconvenience” of switching from app to app is not worth the risk of trusting one source to provide all of this information in one.

Despite my preferences, I have to face the reality that this will likely not always be the case. There might be a day when I’m only using one app for all of my social media needs. For now I think I will stick with my variety.

Say farewell to freemium

Although I have to admit I am a fan of the “freemium” perks that Spotify offers, I have questioned the longevity of this service. My first concern was around the time when Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify. As a fan (okay, a big fan), I had already purchased the album the day it was released on iTunes, but I use Spotify in addition just out of convenience. Spotify’s ability to create a playlist at the touch of a finger with the ability to update new music as frequently as possible is much more convenient than purchasing a song on iTunes, creating a playlist on my computer and then syncing my phone to it. I do still purchase songs on iTunes, but generally after I have been listening to them on Spotify and decide I actually like them.

Others may not necessarily adopt this approach. Instead, many Spotify users pay absolutely nothing for music whatsoever. They never purchase songs on iTunes and instead, have the patience to sit through a few ads to listen to streaming music for free. Taylor Swift and several other artists have joined the fight against Spotify and other free streaming services. Taylor Swift explained her decision to pull her albums from Spotify by saying, “I think there should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify.”

“While digital download services like iTunes helped boost music sales after programs like Napster provided an easy way to pirate music, some say Spotify is providing a solution to digital download sales declining as people listen to music for free on YouTube.” – Sasha Bogursky, Fox News.

Although I understand the perception of record labels and artists, I think they may be fighting a losing battle in a sense. Technology is constantly evolving and streaming music is the future of the industry. People’s demand for unlimited music in an efficient manner is wrapped into one in the form of Spotify. In order to meet the demands of artists I fully agree with eliminating the freemium option and providing the service for a $10/month fee (small compared to the 10 songs you would be able to purchase on iTunes for this price).  I would be willing to pay for Spotify’s services but as long as there is a free option, I will continue to benefit from the freemium perks.

Gofundme

After listening to Aaron’s success story with Gofundme, I decided to look deeper into the site and how much it relies on social media.  I was unfamiliar with the site and was honestly amazed at how quickly Aaron said he was able to raise $1,800. Lets be honest, for a college student, that’s a gold mine.

I found his original post and read the comments from the donators – each strongly encouraged him to pursue his dream and were happy to contribute to the cause. Besides Aaron’s page, there were many requests for contributions to medical bills, handicap accessible vans, and to support a local special Olympics. Just after class, I received an email from my sorority’s listserv with another link to a Gofundme page (check it out here).  It dawned on me how successful this site can be and how that success is owed to social media platforms that help spread it.

Whereas Aaron’s page is only a few days old and has already reached its goal, other pages are months old and have barely made a dent in their fundraising. As a student in the Journalism school, writing for the Daily Tarheel, and learning from mass communication experts, Aaron most likely had an advantage in spreading the word about his cause. Aaron said he reached his goal of $500 an hour after he originally created the page. Without the internet would any of this be possible? Not only would random strangers have no means of sending contributions but the process of spreading the word would take weeks.

While many people continue to shame our generation for its internet obsession, here is an example of it being put to good use. Gofundme.com provides a place where those in desperate need have the ability to reach a large audience in hopes of successfully reaching others willing to help. I applaud the site’s efforts and I urge the continuation of social media to be used to spread messages like these, showing the skeptics a more positive side to the “evils” of the internet.