Sunday, July 10, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N28): Hacking May Cost $100mm, Potter's Last-Not so Fast, Blackboard, Harvard & Social Hot water, Catch22 + More

File under "believe it when it happens": NewsCorp could face $100mm fine if US authorities investigate payments: (Telegraph):

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) have been increasingly aggressive in bringing cases against corporations under America's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). They have so far imposed penalties as high as $800m on companies – such as Siemens – where there has been evidence of persistent and unaccounted for bribery.

FCPA experts told The Telegraph it would be "very surprising" if the DOJ didn't take action against News Corp, and would be likely to do so this week. Any FCPA probe against News Corp would damage its reputation and could further destabilisie James Murdoch's position as Rupert Murdoch's heir apparent.

Experts said it would be likely to involve a "systematic and all encompassing" investigation of every one of its business units worldwide, to uncover unlawful bribery, legitimate payments wrongly accounted for, and to check whether sufficiently robust anti-corruption measures are in place.

News Corp would have to bear the cost of the probe, which sources said would "easily cost north of $100m" and tie the organisation up in red tape for between two and four years.

Of course the Telegraph is a competitor...

JKR hints last Harry Potter film may not be the last. She also said she'd start a movie studio and hire her own actors. (Actually the last bit is a lie, I made it up) Telegraph:

JK Rowling told the crowd that while she had no immediate plans to resurrect her boy wizard, she would "never say never".

To deafening cheers, she added: "It is my baby and if I want to bring it out to play again I will."

Inside Higher Ed's take on the acquisition of Blackboard:

Still, the sale of Blackboard might have a greater impact on Wall Street than on Campus Drive, experts say. The "losers" in this case may be confined to small software companies hoping to be bought out and short-sellers who bet against Blackboard.

As for college and university customers, “I don’t think life changes very much,” says Urdan. For Blackboard to continue to be reliably profitable, it cannot afford to drive clients into the arms of its competitors by jacking up prices, Urdan says. Hence a greater focus on earnings would not necessarily mean a bigger squeeze on customers.

University Press's experiment with book rentals (IHed):

Stanford is not alone. Academic presses at several other universities are running similar rental programs, including the presses at the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and Ohio University.

Through Adobe Digital Editions, customers browsing press websites can purchase temporary access to an e-book, which they can read both online and offline for the duration of the lease. Some presses, such as Iowa, set the rental period — 120 days for a $10 flat fee — to correspond with the length of a semester. Others offer shorter-term options and variable pricing. The Michigan press, for instance, lets students rent an e-book for 30 days at 40 percent of the full e-book price, or for 180 days at 75 percent of the full price.

In contrast with the recent boom in the market for print textbook rentals, none of the presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed reported huge sales in temporary e-book licenses. But the idea is not so much to make a mint as it is to create a pathway to using e-books by offering a cheaper, temporary option for a reader who might not be looking to build a personal digital library. There is no secondhand market for e-books like there is for print volumes; temporary licenses let students save on books they have no intention of keeping.

Opps, Harvard sociology researchers may have compromised Facebook user profiles in a their social-network project (Chronicle):

It was the kind of collection that hundreds of scholars would find interesting. And in 2008, the Harvard team began to realize that potential by publicly releasing part of its archive.

But today the data-sharing venture has collapsed. The Facebook archive is more like plutonium than gold—its contents yanked offline, its future release uncertain, its creators scolded by some scholars for downloading the profiles without students' knowledge and for failing to protect their privacy. Those students have been identified as Harvard College's Class of 2009.

The story of that collapse shines a light on emerging ethical challenges faced by scholars researching social networks and other online environments.

The Harvard sociologists argue that the data pulled from students' Facebook profiles could lead to great scientific benefits, and that substantial efforts have been made to protect the students. Jason Kaufman, the project's principal investigator and a research fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, points out that data were redacted to minimize the risk of identification. No student seems to have suffered any harm. Mr. Kaufman accuses his critics of acting like "academic paparazzi."

A Bill Wyman in Slate thinks the movie industry is about to repeat music history (Slate):

It seems plain that the 2010s are going to be the decade of video. There are good reasons, looking at matters in the short term, for the movie and TV industries not to get their acts together. There are genuine economic forces at work that prevent it as well. (For one, the principals involved need to accept what the music industry never did—that the overall value of its product, which had been propped up by its monopoly control of it, has been considerably and permanently lessened. It's a lot to ask.)

But we can see what didn't work for the music industry. Will Hollywood figure it out? I doubt it. For one, the power of the parties involved, the complexity of their interrelationships, and even the internecine battles playing out inside some of them dwarf those of the music biz. Consider: Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Nintendo; the TV hardware makers (including Sony); the studios, each with corporate parents and international interests (Sony again); theater chains; TV studios (Sony again), TV networks; stars, writers, directors, and their unions; ancillary players like Netflix, Amazon, and the like; and others I'm forgetting. (And then add antitrust regulators here and, even more importantly, in the EU into the mix.) Try getting that crew of misfits and miscreants to agree on anything.

Another factor mitigating against them proactively fixing the problem: The stakes are in a sense lower, in that theater exhibition, a big chunk of the studios' income, won't be affected, for now. The exhibition field can be thought of as the movie industry's equivalent of the live-concert industry in music, but one where all the money doesn't go to the artists. But: The increasing quality of the home-viewing experience, particularly for adult-appeal films, is I think an underappreciated iceberg ahead. And the free money coming from innovations like 3-D and IMAX showings, however evanescent their appeal, are for now covering up a lot of softness in the industry.

Not entirely sure I agree with his argument.

Daniel Swift in The New Statesman on the 50th anniversary of Heller's Catch22 (NS):

Later, the catch is something simpler. The doctor tells Yossarian his own version of catch-22, which holds: "You've always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to." Finally, an old woman in the ruins of Rome explains: "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." The catch is always what traps us and we are caught less by the precise rule than by our apprehension that such a rule must exist.

This sounds like a lot of weight to place on what is an extravagantly funny book, but it is precisely its jokes that elevate paranoia to a style. One character "turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days, no one could stand him." Another "had a bad start. He came from a good family." This is a screwball, side-of-the-mouth kind of humour, and if you say it fast enough it just might sound wise.

Like so much of the novel, these jokes are an invitation to a desperate laughter, the only response to a world in which all are trapped without understanding why and the only rule is repetition. One character was named Major Major as a joke by his father. When he joins the army, he is quickly promoted to the rank of major "by an IBM machine with a sense of humour almost as keen as his father's". He is ruined from the start and his fate is out of his hands.

And an interview with the man himself (NS)

We Ten Million (Intelligent Life): The world is lousy with aspiring novelists who will probably never be published. Alix Christie offers insight into what keeps them working ...

This is enough to give the struggling writer pause. Meanwhile, the publishing industry itself is undergoing some discouraging changes. New numbers show that even successful authors earn far less money from books than they used to. In an industry driven by hunger for the next blockbuster, the chances of making a living as a writer are slimmer now than ever. My timing has always been off, I told my husband, fellow journalist and leading fan, whose job maintains the roof above our heads. Just as I’d decided to tackle another draft of my new novel—in search of that great, elusive shape that might translate into sales—the market had moved on.

In the face of such odds, merely writing a novel must seem perverse. Self-indulgent, at the very least, if not financial suicide. The question is less whether the novel as a form is dying, or if the internet can offer a lifeline to certain writers. What cries out for explanation is the strange, persistent fact that millions of us spend years attempting something for which we are certain to see little, if any, reward.

From the twitter this week:

Boost for library campaign as court orders judicial review -

The phone-hacking saga threatens Rupert Murdoch, the press as a whole, the police and politicians

Australian Booksellers Association Wary Of Pearson REDGroup Deal Paidcontent

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