I Was on a Podcast About…Quilting?

I recently had the privilege of being featured on Dr. Elizabeth Townsend-Gard‘s research podcast Just Wanna’ QuiltDr. Townsend-Gard is a law professor at Tulane where she heads up the Copyright Research Labs. The quilting podcast is one of the Lab’s projects, focused on building an “army” of quilters to talk about the love of their craft, as well as the copyright (and other legal issues) confronted by the quilting community.

Fortunately — for me, Dr. Townsend-Gard, and the audience — I didn’t have to talk too much about quilting. Instead, we focused primarily on copyright, Hollywood, and being good quilting citizens. I’ve been on the podcast twice now, and you can listen to both episodes below. For more, be sure to check out the full list of episodes here or, as they say, wherever you get your podcasts.

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This is a personal website. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and are not purported to be those of any employer, client, customer, or other affiliated entity, past or present. Unless expressly noted otherwise, the content on this site is neither sponsored by nor affiliated with any employer, client, customer, or associated entity.

In Praise of Local Media

Local media has become something of a laughing stock in recent years – too many commercials, too much fluff (or too much sensationalism), an artifact of mass media’s past. Millennials hate traditional media, the research says.

Who needs TV when you’ve got HBO Go (btw, can I borrow your password)?

Radio? Is that like Apple Music but with commercials?

And yet despite the jokes, in recent months, as disaster and tragedy seem to have struck repeatedly, I have heard of not one person who tuned to Spotify to hear important evacuation information, or who flipped on Hulu to find out where to donate blood. I searched and searched but couldn’t find any weather radar in my Netflix queue.

Today was no exception. As I write this, many of the stations in Las Vegas are approaching 24 hours of continuous coverage of today’s tragedy and its aftermath. And while some of that coverage has been of the “sensationalist speculation” variety, the vast majority of it has been focused on public safety, recovery, and serving as a foundation upon which to rebuild community spirit.

In short, it’s local media doing what only local media can do. It seems that despite all the trade press fuss, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

c/o CSR Media, LLC
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info [at] chrisreed.com

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Site design by Chris Reed using Divi 3.19 on Wordpress 5.0.

Homepage header image by IM_photo.

Icons by Freepik, www.flaticon.com.

Disclaimer

This is a personal website. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and are not purported to be those of any employer, client, customer, or other affiliated entity, past or present. Unless expressly noted otherwise, the content on this site is neither sponsored by nor affiliated with any employer, client, customer, or associated entity.

The Media Business: A Reading List

I’m often asked to recommend books and other resources about the media and entertainment industries — so often, that I thought it might be worth putting my thoughts together in written form. So, here it is. I’ll update this periodically as new resources become available.

Books

The most comprehensive yet easy to understand discussion of the audiovisual industry that I’ve ever seen is Jeff Ulin’s The Business of Media Distribution: Monetizing Film, TV, and Video Content in an Online World (Focal Press 2013). For a more technical look at the industry’s economic features, check out the aptly titled Entertainment Industry Economics by Howard Vogel. Currently in its ninth edition, Entertainment Industry Economics has become a stalwart for any media industry strategist or analyst. It’s a bit difficult to read “cover to cover” but then again, it isn’t intended to be — it’s perfect for reading a chapter or two when you need a quick, comprehensive primer on a particular aspect of the industry.

With respect to television specifically, there are three books that, although now dated, are well worth reading to understand the dynamics of the business and, if nothing else, to understand how the business was once structured which informs how far it has come today. The first, and most detailed, is the venerable Ken Auletta’s treatise, Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost their Way (Vintage 1992), chronicles the dramatic fall of the network television business that took place in the mid 1980s, leading it to lose about a third of its audience and half its profits. For a similar treatment of a later time period (featuring some strikingly similar themes), try Bill Carter’s Desperate Networks (Doubleday 2006), which picks up the story several years later — beginning in 2004. Filling in the time between Blind Mice and Desperate Networks, is Suzanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton’s Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise & Fall of the WB and UPN, which as the title implies, trace the history of two “netlets” founded in January of 1995, along with a healthy dose of industry background and scene setting for the relevant time period.

Those who remember what radio is might be interested in two competing narratives of the modern radio business (that is, the industry following the 1996 Telecom Act), each focusing primarily on the largest player in the business: Clear Channel. For the “unauthorized” side of the story, check out Alec Foege’s Right of the Dial (Faber & Faber 2008). For Clear Channel’s thinly veiled corporate-sponsored response, see Clear Vision: The Story of Clear Chanel Communications (Bright Sky 2008). The latter reads a bit like an extended corporate recruiting brochure, but taken together, the books offer a nice overview of the radio climate in the late 1990s and 2000s.

For more general background on the intellectual property aspects of our business, including threats from piracy and the so-called “tech” industry, I offer three suggestions: The first is Robert Levine’s Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back (Anchor 2013). Written by the former executive editor of Billboard, Levine skillfully navigates the tech sector has built business models on the backs of artists, essentially rendering the business of content production unprofitable, or at least unsustainable as a full-time vocation. On a similar note, the more recent Move Fast and Break Things by University of Southern California professor Jonathan Taplin (Little, Brown and Co. 2017) takes a broader view of the tech sector and looks at how the sheer size and domination of several major internet firms — namely, Amazon, Facebook, and Google — threatens the future of our culture.

For a slightly more academic, though still accessible, treatment of our industry’s issues, see Michael Smith and Rahul Telang’s 2016 book, Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment (MIT Press 2016). Smith and Telang are professors at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University and co-directors of the Digital Media Research Center which produces research on a variety of topics, including the impact of piracy on particular business models and practices. Their book comprises, essentially, a summary of their research to date, juxtaposed with anecdotes and stories from industry executives.

Those in search of more business or strategy-focused literature would be well advised to read Jonathan A. Knee, Bruce C. Greenwald, and Ava Seave’s 2011 book The Curse of the Mogul: What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies (Portfolio 2011). The thoroughly researched volume discusses the economic features of the media and entertainment industries alongside the human aspects of media management — the glitz and glamour that often drive decisions more than the data. In the words of blurber James B. Stewart, the book offers “an insider’s view of how big egos often trump rational decision making, which is invaluable and hugely entertaining for anyone interested in the high-profile world of media.”

Anita Elberse’s Blockbusters: Hit Making, Risk Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment (Holt 2013) is another must-read for anyone interested in the basic economic structure of media. Elberse, a professor at Harvard Business School, takes the position that the only way those in the entertainment industry can achieve success is by betting big on tentpole films and superstar talent, to the detriment of smaller, less popular (but arguably more artistic) fare. While her views have generated some debate among insiders, Elberse has emerged as one of the leading voices on entertainment industry strategy.

For a quick summary of Elberse’s position and the leading competing viewpoint , take a look at her 2008 Harvard Business Review article “Should You Invest in the Long Tail,” Chris Anderson’s response, “Debating the Long Tail” (a summarized version of principles upon which he expands in his own book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More), and Elberse’s reply, aptly titled “The Long Tail Debate: A Response to Chris Anderson.”

Another scholarly voice in the field is Bharat Anand, whose book, The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change (Random House 2016) explores a number of case studies involving companies who have had to navigate the digital landscape to develop and offer new digital products, or to transition old ones to the digital environment. Interestingly, Anand’s take is that while content itself is important (indeed, it’s “king,” if one were to believe the old adage), those who achieve digital success are especially adept at identifying connections among content, and more critically, its users, audiences, or other constituencies.

Podcasts

Beyond “traditional” sources, I get a lot of my news and information about the media industry from podcasts. Here are a few that I listen to religiously:

On the Media from WNYC Studios — a weekly look at the media and its impact on society and culture, including periodic discussions about the business aspects of the industry.

The Pub from Current — a niche program intended for public radio professionals, but also featuring occasional discussions about the evolution of the media industry generally, and the new ways audiences consume news, information, and entertainment.

Remote Controlled from Variety — a fairly run-of-the-mill interview-style program hosted by Variety’s executive editor for television, Debra Birnbaum, featuring discussions with a mix of business executives and creative talent.

Scriptnotes — a podcast about screenwriting (and, as the show intro goes, “things that are interesting to screenwriters”). Although focused primarily on the craft of writing, veteran screenwriter hosts John August and Craig Mazin often include discussions of the business and legal aspects of the film and television industry.

The Business from KCRW — hosted by veteran reporter Kim Masters, this podcast features interviews with a mix of business executives and creative talent from throughout the entertainment industry. Typically my favorite part of the show is the first five minutes or so — the weekly “news banter” where Kim, typically joined by Matt Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, discuss the top stories in the entertainment industry over the past week and their implications for our business.

The Spin Off from KCRW — an aptly named adjunct to The Business, this show ceased production at the end of March 2017, but promises to return at some point in the future. In its prior incarnation, it focused on television-centric stories and discussion that didn’t make it into The Business.

Case Studies

One other resource I have found to be very useful when trying to learn about a new industry or business model are case studies published by business schools. These cases are intended to facilitate classroom discussion about a particular issue or challenge facing a business executive, but often contain useful background information on the structure and market dynamics of a particular company and the industry in which it operates. Be warned, though: Since these case studies are intended to stimulate discussion, they typically don’t contain any guidance as to what the “right” answer is or might be (indeed, they expressly disclaim that they shouldn’t be taken as management advice).

Still, for general background, and a sense of the type of decisions that media and entertainment industry executive have to pursue, cases can be invaluable. Here are a few I have found useful (some of which I have taught in my classes at Claremont Graduate University):


There are, of course, dozens of other resources available to better understand the media and entertainment industries, but these are some of my favorites. Is your favorite missing? Let me know what I should add to the list by commenting below.

c/o CSR Media, LLC
10736 Jefferson Boulevard, #1009
Culver City, California 90230

info [at] chrisreed.com

+1 720.236.3007

Credits

Site design by Chris Reed using Divi 3.19 on Wordpress 5.0.

Homepage header image by IM_photo.

Icons by Freepik, www.flaticon.com.

Disclaimer

This is a personal website. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and are not purported to be those of any employer, client, customer, or other affiliated entity, past or present. Unless expressly noted otherwise, the content on this site is neither sponsored by nor affiliated with any employer, client, customer, or associated entity.

Farewell, Craig Windham

Farewell, Craig Windham

I was saddened and a bit shocked to hear today’s news that longtime NPR newscaster Craig Windham had passed away. He was only 66.

I met Craig during my first internship at NPR in 2002. I was desperate to be a newscaster at the time and even though I wasn’t interning with his group, he was generous enough to let me hang out with him during a few shifts and watch him do his thing (and eat dinner with the newscast unit a couple times). Getting to meet him was especially gratifying because at the time I was also a volunteer at Lehigh Valley’s community public radio station, WDIY, where I anchored local news breaks that often came right after Craig’s network newscasts and I always tried to emulate his calm, crisp delivery.

When I met him I believe he was still working on his Ph.D. in counseling, and I remember it being the first time that I realized it was possible to pursue multiple careers, or more accurately, that there might be a way to pursue my passion for radio while doing other things. I’ve been good at the “other things” part, but this makes me think maybe it’s time to figure out a way to get back into radio.

In an article covering Windham’s career, Robert Garcia, the executive producer of NPR’s hourly newscasts, says that “Craig touched so many lives.”

I can vouch for at least one.

Thanks, Craig. You’ll be missed.

c/o CSR Media, LLC
10736 Jefferson Boulevard, #1009
Culver City, California 90230

info [at] chrisreed.com

+1 720.236.3007

Credits

Site design by Chris Reed using Divi 3.19 on Wordpress 5.0.

Homepage header image by IM_photo.

Icons by Freepik, www.flaticon.com.

Disclaimer

This is a personal website. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and are not purported to be those of any employer, client, customer, or other affiliated entity, past or present. Unless expressly noted otherwise, the content on this site is neither sponsored by nor affiliated with any employer, client, customer, or associated entity.

Applying the “Emerging Zone” Model to Legal Education

I’ve recently become interested in the economic challenges facing higher education. It’s well established that the cost of college (and most graduate education) has increased dramatically over the past thirty years, and fewer students (or more accurately, their parents) are realistically able to cover the cost without incurring significant student loan debt. Although interest rates on education loans appear to be leveling off, they remain higher than they were just a few years ago, meaning that some students — particularly those who take out loans for both undergraduate and graduate or professional school — face the very likely prospect of never paying off their education-related debt.

I just finished Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (Knopf 2010), in which philosopher and professor Mark C. Taylor describes this so-called “education bubble,” and posits that unless colleges and universities embrace new network and communications technologies for content production and delivery, develop and implement new business models, and generally identify opportunities to reap economies of scale, higher education as we know it may well become extinct.

One of Taylor’s observations is that the scope of academic inquiry in many disciplines has become narrower and narrower as subfields are developed — complete with their own conferences, journals, and professional societies — to alleviate the pressure on the faculty to publish. In Taylor’s words, “[t]he problem is not only the growing number of subfields, but also the thinking behind how they are defined,” because as the world changes, so too should the organizational principles upon which we think about intellectual inquiry.

Taylor argues that many academics have become entrenched in their subject area and don’t explore connections to other areas. Taylor proposes the development of a model called “Emerging Zones” that “would be organized around problems and themes that lend themselves to interdisciplinary investigation.” More specifically:

the Emerging Zones program would be university- or college-wide, and all faculty members as well as undergraduate and graduate students would be required to participate. In addition to completing a major or concentrating in a specialized field, students would have to do significant work in at least one Emerging Zone. Faculty members’ contributions to these programs would play an important role in the hiring, renewal and promotion decisions.

Taylor provides two concrete examples — here’s one of them, a zone simply titled “media:”

Experience is always mediated by technologies that are constantly changing. This focus area examines how religious experience, thought, action and institutions are related to different technologies of production and reproduction. “Media” is understood in the broadest possible sense: visual (painting, sculpture, mosaics, film, photography, architecture), auditory (music, ritual, spirits), physical (bodily disciplines and practices, material factors–food, drugs, etc.), transportation (land, sea, air), information and communication (writing, mechanical, electronic, digital) and networks (social, political, economic, technological). The primary concern of inquiry in this area is to determine the ways in which religious beliefs and practices shape media and, correlatively, the impact of different media on religious ideas and life.”

Although Taylor’s arguments and examples are primarily focused on the humanities and sciences, it struck me that much of what Mr. Taylor proposes might work equally well in certain law school fields as well. Traditionally law schools, even those affiliated with larger institutions, have been isolated from non-legal fields of study, with “interdisciplinary” study occuring mostly in the form of dual degrees (e.g., JD/MBA programs requiring courses in both the law school and the business school).

But there are, of course, many areas of the law that implicate other areas of traditional academic inquiry and there certainly are areas of traditional academic inquiry that have legal implications.  Take genetic engineering, for example — plainly a topic properly placed in the sciences. But technology aside, the impact of genetic engineering is far reaching, raising significant ethical questions, policy issues, questions about the nature of our health care system, and personal privacy, among others. I’ve seen law courses in ethics, healthcare, and privacy, but I’m guessing there’s never been an “omnibus offering” that contains bits and pieces of everything led by a group of expert faculty from a diversty of affected disciplines.

I’ve described this from a classroom perspective, but if I understand Taylor’s proposal, the emerging zone would be more than a single class offering from several professors in different departments — it would, itself, be a mini-department of sorts, fostering innovative scholarship that cuts across traditional academic lines, and encouraging conversations that rarely happen today because we’re all in our individual, ever narrowing, silos of knowledge and experience. When the relevance of a particular emerging zone fades, so too does the zone, making way for the establishment of new zones more closely aligned with current issues and areas of scholarly inquiry and social relevance.

In my own world — the intellectual property world — I can think of some exciting ways to use Taylor’s model. For example, one might have an emerging zone focused on brands and branding. Such a zone would reach beyond the law school, which would provide trademark experts, to other departments throughout the institution, including psychology, to understand how consumers use brands, slogans, logos, etc., to identify goods and services in the marketplace, and how the brain perceives such brands; marketing, to understand the business context in which brands are used and how; sociology to understand how brands impact our culture and how certain brands emerge as cultural icons; art or graphic design for the visual aspects of branding; music for the sonic qualities; and so on.  I’d imagine there are areas of scholarly relevance that I haven’t even thought about.

Beyond the obvious value to scholarly discourse, the emerging zone model could be used to enhance student experiences and provide more real-world applications and perspectives. There has been a great deal of pressure on law schools as of late to produce “practice ready” graduates, and many schools have responded by adding skills-based courses to their curriculum. But taking a deposition or drafting a brief is only part of the law practice experience — students should also have a firm understanding of the social and cultural context in which their practice takes place, and an understanding of the business and economic factors that influence certain behaviors. Such background is lacking in many traditional doctrine-based law school courses, largely because of the very silos that Taylor seeks to eliminate with the emerging zone construct — a construct that a progressive law school would do well to consider seriously.

c/o CSR Media, LLC
10736 Jefferson Boulevard, #1009
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info [at] chrisreed.com

+1 720.236.3007

Credits

Site design by Chris Reed using Divi 3.19 on Wordpress 5.0.

Homepage header image by IM_photo.

Icons by Freepik, www.flaticon.com.

Disclaimer

This is a personal website. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and are not purported to be those of any employer, client, customer, or other affiliated entity, past or present. Unless expressly noted otherwise, the content on this site is neither sponsored by nor affiliated with any employer, client, customer, or associated entity.