“We believe the future of TV is apps”

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that during the announcement of the latest version of Apple TV back in September. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but after using apps on the TV for a few days, I’m starting to get a sense of what he was talking about. Not sure I can describe it in any useful way.

Back in the 50s we had two or three channels and everything came through one of them (in real time). Cable brought us more pipes but you had to be watching the right pipe at the right time to see what you wanted (or what the network wanted you to see). VCRs and (later) DVRs allowed us to time shift and skip commercials but its was still a channels-of-programs world.

The iPhone introduced the concept of apps. The New York Times has an app; ESPN has an app; all gods children got an app. Now the world is mobile and apps is where it’s at.

reutersTVThis is where I was going to try to describe how “apps for the TV” delivers a fundamentally different experience than the current TV model but I don’t think I’m up to the task. I know it’s a cliche but you’ll just have to play with for a bit get it. But I do have one example.

The new (4th generation) Apple TV comes with an app for Reuters TV. You can watch individual stories (Trump on SNL) or categories (World News). Or you can let the app build a “newscast” for you. Tell it how much time you have (5, 15, 30 minutes) and it does the rest.

I’ve been impressed with the few of these I’ve watched. No high profile anchors and no famous network correspondents. I’m reminded of the early days of CNN Headline News with anonymous (but competent) reports told you what was happening. The reporters I’ve watched on Reuters TV are not slick or polished but they get the job done and the story is clearly more important than the people reporting.

The production values are excellent, they’ve just done away with a lot of the shit (glitzy graphics, etc) the networks have piled on over the years. And it’s rare to see an NBC newscast without at least one “story” promoting the network (“More on the TODAY SHOW tomorrow morning…”).

Reuters TV did toss in a couple of 10 second (?) ads but they were not intrusive and they weren’t aimed at the 65+ demo.

So, if I get home in the middle of the afternoon and want a summary of news, Reuters TV can give me what I want; the length I want; when I want it. On my new big screen TV. Apps do this well. Far better than networks and cable channels.

As I get more comfortable with TV = apps I’ll take another stab at describing this. I’d be very interested in hearing from others using the latests version of Apple TV.

Revolution in civil liberties

From interview with David Simon (Where the Baltimore Police Went Wrong):

The documented litany of police violence is now out in the open. There’s an actual theme here that’s being made evident by the digital revolution. It used to be our word against yours. It used to be said—correctly—that the patrolman on the beat on any American police force was the last perfect tyranny. Absent a herd of reliable witnesses, there were things he could do to deny you your freedom or kick your ass that were between him, you, and the street. The smartphone with its small, digital camera, is a revolution in civil liberties.

Serial

serial-social-logoI kept reading glowing reviews of this podcast and finally listened to the first episode. And the second. And… I was hooked. Now I’m rationing my listening. Once upon a time I would have described this as “good radio” but it no longer feels like radio to me. And it’s far superior to any podcast I’ve heard before. The people behind this podcast have close ties to This American Life.

Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial (follows) one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. We follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us.

The episodes I’ve listened to so far (five?) have been sponsored (MailChimp) but they also accept donations (I had no trouble kicking in $20) and they’ve received enough support to commit to a second season.

Each episode is anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes but are so well written and produced they seem much shorter.

Radio, podcasting, great story telling… whatever you call this, it’s compelling.

Citizenfour

citizenfour_posterWe ain’t the good guys anymore. That was my take-away from Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ documentary on Edward Snowden. This is far and away the best documentary I’ve ever seen and it was damning. As for who’s a good guy and who isn’t, well, maybe there aren’t any good guys anymore. I’ll tell you who is not a good guy… Barack Obama. Yep, the guy I voted for, twice. Even made some donations to the first campaign. I’d say I fucked up but come on… Sarah Palin?!

As it became clear President Obama was a very different cat than Candidate Obama, I told myself he’s better than George Bush and Dick Cheney. But you know, that doesn’t make you a good guy. It just makes you not those bad guys.

Same goes for the USA. Yeah, there are some countries with really shitty governments. But that’s a pretty low bar. Turns out our shit does stink and it’s time we took a good whip.

At some point in the film I found myself thinking, “Fuck it. I hope the Republicans take the Senate. And the House. A whole bunch of Democrats have been complicit in what the NSA and the rest of the intelligence “community” have been up to and they get no more support or votes for me.

I’ll calm down but I won’t be the same. It’s that strong a film. I’ve turned off comments here but would be happy to discuss privately, one-to-one. With anyone who has seen the film.

Senator McCaskill honors Bob Priddy

“He’s a journalist and I’m a politician and if you’re a journalist then you don’t make friends with politicians. You keep your distance because you have to be objective and you have to be willing to ask questions that you know is going to irritate them.”

Apart from the tribute video (and Bob), there was only one speaker at Bob Priddy’s retirement dinner this past Monday. U. S. Senator Claire McCaskill. She was very good.

For those who know Bob and couldn’t be at the event, you can watch it here.

Bob Priddy

In December (2014) Bob Priddy will retire from his job as news director of The Missourinet. The network’s first and only news director. In this interview Bob talks about how the network began; interesting people and big stories; politics and history. I was privileged to work with Bob for almost 30 years and he’s one of the most talented and interesting people I’ve met. The interview runs just under half an hour. Hardly enough time to reflect on his amazing career.

Secrets of the Vatican

This Frontline documentary was… damning. I’m sure “defenders of the faith” have ready responses to every charge although I’m not sure what one would say to 8-year-old Monica Barret who was raped by her priest (“If You Tell Anybody, Your Parents Will Burn in Hell”). A middle aged woman now, Ms. Barret’s dry-eyed account of that event was chilling and heart breaking.

I suppose you argue that the producers and Frontline and the media (and all non-Catholics?) are out to ‘get’ the Catholic Church. Fuck if I know. Has anyone said, “I don’t want to be part of this. I’ll find another place worship. Call me if you get your shit together.”

Sounds like the new Pope might be trying to make some changes but the corruption runs deep and high and any real house cleaning is gonna be ugly.

The Loudest Voice in the Room

loudest-voiceThe Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country (Amazon)

I rarely read biographies. And I never watch Fox News. But the excerpts from this book really hooked me and the book did not disappoint. I literally had trouble putting the book down. It read like a novel.

The image I had of Roger Ailes — before reading this book — was very superficial. Pretty much the right wing boogyman lurking in the wings of Fox News. Author Gabriel Sherman shows us a complex, talented man who is deeply flawed.

Ailes is only seven years older than I so I witnessed some of the history he helped make, starting with The Mike Douglas Show (he produced); helping Richard Nixon and two Bush’s get elected; the creation of Fox News and its evolution as the propaganda arm of the modern Republican Party.

I won’t look at TV news or politics in quite the same way after readying the book. The author lifted the edge of the tent just enough to see what rubes we are.

It’s difficult to imagine the world won’t be/become a different place after Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes leave the playing field. Has anybody in the last 20 years had a greater impact on the news business (and, by extension, the world) than these guys?

The TV news business that Roger Ailes helped change seems to be changing again. Will the great instincts about television carry over to the world of Netflix and YouTube? Ailes is old and sick and will — hopefully — be on the sidelines.

The Roger Ailes we see in this book is not a happy guy. Rich, powerful, talented, influential… without a doubt. But not happy. I’d give a hundred dollars to know if Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch read this book.