eBay and interactivity

21 02 2010

One thing that has kept eBay ahead of its competition and the customers coming back is a certain level of interactivity. Online shopping has become a distinguished online experience, and eBay wants the experience to be as easy and user-oriented as possible. This helps the site with retaining customers, and the chance they will return. eBay remains the most popular of all online auction sites, currently ranking 23rd worldwide on Alexa’s traffic rankings.

Considering the vast amount of auctions occurring at anytime, eBay provides advanced search options, as well as search by category. Additionally, search results can be further refined to ensure all product details match your criteria. For example, a simple search for “camera lens” yielded over 58,000 results. But there was also options to further narrow the results by brand, type of lends, price range, condition, etc.

Once the results are refined to the user’s preferences, the remaining results can be organized in various ways, including by price, auction time left, or best match. For the users that enjoy an extremely personalized set-up, eBay also provides the option for the user to rearrange the view completely.

Browsing auctions is also becoming easier. In fact, the user never really has to leave the search results page. If the seller has provided an enlarged picture of the product, a simple rollover will show this off. And in the case of multiple pictures, a rollover slideshow depicting the product. This way the user can quickly scan the results and find exactly what they are looking for.

And the actual purchasing process is fairly simple. eBay owns PayPal, one of the most commonly used e-commerce tools. The simple checkout process will automatically, and safely, transfer funds from the user’s bank accounts or credit card to the sellers. Of course other forms of payment are accepted at the seller’s discretion.

Seller ratings have also become a popular way of leaving feedback for any transaction, for both the buyer and the seller. This option allows users to research who is selling these products and add some quality and safety assurance to the online shopping experience.





MegaGlom!: Consequences of Mega Media Conglomerates

19 02 2010

With the Comcast – NBCU buyout/merger potential lurking right around the corner, there has been recent concern about what might happen if today’s media system continues to head down path of the mega-corporation, conglomerates, monopolies, and duopolies. How will media change if these companies are continually bought-out and run by a handful of major corporations?

Media analyst, Robert McChesney, seems to think that one side effect would be a decrease in content quality. If one company owned several of the top local and national stations and networks, McChesney suggests that, because of the decreased competition, content will become increasingly uniform. If a company owns a certain market, they have less of a need to create higher-quality produced content because there is less competition, not to mention that the company will have more or less complete control over what airs and when.

That makes sense – if you are the only supplier, then people have to get their media through you, which means more profits. And the less you spend on production, even more profit.

But I would argue that this uniformity is already apparent in today’s media, regardless of the amount of media companies and stations. Think about the three largest networks right now, NBC, CBS, and ABC. In the primetime slot, they all play Cop/Doctor dramas, competition-based reality shows, sitcoms, etc…. Now look at some other smaller stations. CW is jumping on the Drama/Dramedy bandwagon, TBS played mostly reruns, and Family Guy can be seen on TV at almost any given time in the day.

(NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, – CSI, CSI: New York, CSI: Miami – Law and Order, L&O: Special Victims Unit, L&O: Criminal Intent, L&O: Crime and Punishment, L&O: Trial by Jury)

One of the possible reasons for this uniformity is a general lack of original ideas. All the good, original ideas are taken, and we are left to add creative twists on the same old ideas. How many times has the “Guy meets Girl” bit been done? And doesn’t the bomb always wait till 00:01 to stop ticking?

Another reason is the money, obviously. When one station or company gets a hit show, other stations will recreate it. A few years ago we saw an emergence on 3-Judge Competition Vote-Off reality shows across all networks. There was also a string of reality dating shows from “The Bachelor” to “A Shot at Love.” It’s supply and demand. One type of show becomes a hit, we demand more, and any and every station is willing to provide us with “unique” content.

Now, not that media conglomerates, monopolies, and duopolies help prevent uniformity (and in fact may further advance it), but they are definitely not the only contributing factor. When it comes down to the bottom line, media is a business and people want to make money. For some that means jumping on the new, hot show bandwagon, and for others it means buying and owning as many companies as possible. Either way, it’s the money that moves the media.





The Basis of Bias

12 02 2010

Journalism was founded on the idea of being a watchdog between the government and the people. News organizations are tasked with probing and investigating to uncover stories, present facts, and debunk myths and rumors. Journalists and news organizations need to be accurate and completely unbiased in order to properly function for the public good.

But there seems to be one inherent problem with this foundation… it is almost impossible to be completely unbiased. Cognitive dissonance suggests that people generally prefer information that falls in with their own beliefs. Each individual is equipped with their own set of morals, values, beliefs, etc., and carefully select sources and information that best accompanies these personal beliefs. We all have a motivational drive to rationalize and justify our own ideas and opinions, so choosing a source that fits that better seems fairly natural to us… but it is also biased.

It is no secret that Fox News tends to lean heavily on the conservative side of issues, and thus they draw a large conservative audience. People that are on the liberal side are not going to use Fox News as their main source of information because of this. Likewise, a conservative is unlikely going to be glued to MSNBC.

It is also interesting how obvious, yet overlooked this bias seems to be. The inherent bias corrodes the foundation of journalism, yet nothing is being done to correct this. But it is overlooked, or better yet, ignored, because as long as we are at the source that falls in with our beliefs, we don’t care. Fox News’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced,” while MSNBC rocks “A Fuller Spectrum of News,” still trying to wear the mask of unbiased journalism.

Bias seems to be inevitable, not just in journalism, but in our human nature, so attempting to be completely unbiased is a great feat indeed. I think the answer does not lie in journalism changing, but rather in the audience being aware, and then making educated decisions on which source to receive information from. Another option would be to collect information from various sources and compare the angles.

Personally, I’ll just stick to my entertaining Yahoo! News stories, and rely on the professionals like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to dish out the hard core news.





A Great Idea

8 02 2010

What’s an interactive media idea you wish you had?  What made it a good idea?

As a self-proclaimed television junkie, Internet television has recently made a profound impact on my views and participation with interactive media. Lots of video content has made the leap from the television screen to the computer screen in recent years. Sites like Hulu.com are allowing users to watch full television shows and movies online. Netflix, a popular movie supplier, is also making hundreds of movies and television series available online, on demand. With video on the rise in the interactive media realm, Hulu and similar sites are an interactive idea that I wish I had.

In the days before Hulu, there were limited options if you happened to miss your favorite episode of Survivor. Sure, you could read about who got voted out in the paper, or ask your friends got to watch it, but it does not replace actually watching the castaways battle it out and see their torch get snuffed. So in order to actually watch your favorite show, you would have to record it with a VHS tape, or you could use your TiVo or DVR to record it. But the problem with both of those options is that you would have to own one of those devices, and plan to record it in advance. And who still uses VHS, let alone owns a VCR? And of course, there is always the possibility that you don’t even have cable, or a television.

Enter Hulu.com. Hulu allows anyone with an Internet connection to watch their favorite shows on their own schedule. And with minor commercial interruptions, the video is still free for users, yet companies can generate revenue, making it a Win/Win relationship between producers and consumers.

Many major stations are also putting videos and episodes available on their website, but Hulu provides a one-stop location for all your favorite shows. Now you never have to miss an episode!





Do It Yourself

16 11 2009

do it yourself

Today in one of my classes we had a Skype guest speaker, David Mathison, author/editor of Be The Media, one of our class textbooks. The book has already been a great help in revealing some cool tips, tools, and tricks for making a presence on the web. The book also shares ways of building good content coupled with what to do with it, and how to spread your message. But for all the great advice in the book, and from Mathison’s appearance in class today, there is one message to be left with…

Do it yourself!

We are in a digital age of do it yourself, where you can write, build, create, design, whatever, whenever, and however you want. And then through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter you can gather fans and a following. Think about viral videos, they are just spread through word of mouth and posting on walls and blogs. The power of that marketing strategy is not limited to viral videos, but can reach out to websites, books, television shows… whatever!

Mathison also talked about going the do it yourself route for reasons of owning your content. With his personal experience at large publishing companies, they wanted to take out large chunks of his book. Instead, he took a different route and kept the book as he, the creator, intended.

Do it yourself is also by and large the cheaper route. Most of the tools you would need for creation and advertisement are free, or extremely cheap. Websites are becoming increasingly easy to make and maintain, and their cost keeps dropping. I am personally in the beginning steps of grabbing my own domain and site. First I will be researching different hosting sites. Any recommendations?

Now, the approach and tools you use totally depends on what content you are trying to make/promote. Just remember, you don’t need large expensive companies to do any of the work for you. A quick search will probably yield dozens of great tools to accomplish whatever you are looking for. Or jeeze, there’s probably an app for that.





Disney Quest: Virtually Awesome

9 11 2009

disneyquest

It’s about time that focus of Interactive Media left the Internet and the laptop, and moved to other places in the real world. Like theme parks! I’m talking about Disney Quest, the completely indoor interactive theme park located in Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. Five stories of interactive fun, games, and rides.

Now, DQ has been around since 1998, but shows some promise for the future of interactive theme parks. There are fully immersive virtual reality rides, mixed well with interactive “shows” (Animation Studio and Music Studio demonstrations), and good ol’ fashion arcade video games.

But lets take a look at some of the cool Virtual Reality rides.

In the Virtual Jungle Cruise you paddle your way down a virtual prehistoric river, encountering dinosaurs and other dangers. As you sit in a raft and paddle your oar with your raft-mates, you are watching your team cruise down a river on the large screen.

Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride is a virtual reality game that fully immerses the player in a virtual interactive world. Players wear VR masks and sit in front of controls and help them navigate through the world. In the virtual world you are riding on a carpet through Agrabah, helping Aladdin on his quest.

Cyber Space Mountain is by far the coolest ride at Disney Quest. With some help from Bill Nye the Science Guy you can build and ride your own roller coaster. Really! You pick each and every loop, twist, and turn, as well as the speed, music, and the virtual world you soar through. Save it on your DQ card, and when you step up to the simulator, prepare for the best roller coaster ride you’ve ever built.

Disney Quest has been around since 1998, and surprisingly little has been updated since then. The prices sure did change, but the rides and games are still predominately the same as when they opened. It leaves me wondering, why are there not more interactive theme parks like Disney Quest?

But more importantly, it leaves me wondering… what’s next?





Set in stone like a fossil

4 11 2009

I don’t mean to sound cynical here, but as a serious question… What’s the point of books these days? jurassic-park-coverLet me rephrase, because I still love getting completely lost in reading Jurassic Park cover to cover for the 18th time.  What is the point of non-fiction books? Again, that should probably be rephrased, but let’s see where that takes us for now.

It is no secret that the glory days of print newspapers are coming to an end as we move farther and farther into the digital age. Granted there is something peaceful about walking to the end of your driveway and reading the Funnies while sipping a cup of coffee. But Web-based newspapers allow for current, real-time updates on current events, unlike print, which is set in stone as soon as ink hits the paper.

Say that again… “Set in stone.” THAT’S the issue. Today, nothing new is set in stone. New things are always happening, and sometimes we don’t want to wait till tomorrow morning’s paper to read about it. We need to be constantly informed and updated about worldly events. But enough hating on newspapers, I think you get the point.

Which brings me around to my original point. I think this hit me in during class today, when the professor casually mentioned a book on Google Analytics and how it is fairly new, but might need some updating. How can you update a book? Sure, I can look at any of my text books and see “version 3” scribbled at the bottom, but re-printing thousands of copies anytime there is something new to add can be very expensive.

And books do not come together overnight, for sure. Granted my knowledge in writing, publishing, and distributing books is fairly limited, but I can take an educated guess that the process usually takes more than a couple of days. The problem is that as soon as a book hits the shelves, it could already be outdated (this is also why I chose to leave fiction books out of the equation)

The Internet provided opportunities to update, edit, refine, revise, etc any content in real-time. So my text book printed in 2006 could make a great display at the antique store downtown, or be uncovered tomorrow in my nifty time-capsule.

Now, obviously, this doesn’t apply to every non-fiction book either. There is no reason to update history books (unless something monumental happened that reframes our understanding of past events), and math equations are fairly safe set in stone… but there are certain printed materials that would be better suited as online material that can be kept updated, and thus, relevant.

So I guess the question I am asking is… What’s the point of printed material that relates to current events or situations, and in some cases, books? Seems like they might go the way of Crichton’s creatures… extinct.