Media Industries

Movie Trailers and Marketing in the Movie Industry

Since we ran out of time last week, I wanted to see what movie trailer you selected for last week’s exercise. Also tell me a little bit about it.

Let me start:

Watch the trailer for Errol Morris’s new documentary, The Unknown Known.

This film is a series of interviews with Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense under GW Bush, who sold the American public on invading Iraq in 2003. It could be understood as a sequel to Morris’s 2003 film, The Fog of War, about another former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who was in charge during the Vietnam War.

It would be foolish to think that any documentary, including this one, doesn’t have an argument. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that a documentary without a point to make is a waste of time. This trailer makes a compelling argument that engages your interest, regardless of how you may regard the eleven year–long conflict. As is usual with a film like this, with limited commercial appeal, it will be released in New York and Los Angeles this week and expand to other markets, depending on how strong the box office figures are.

If Morris’s past films are any indication, this film should do well in the awards circuit, including an Academy Award nomination.

Radio Programs from the “Golden Age”

If you’re interested in listening to radio programs from the “Golden Age of Radio,” there’s an overwhelming collection available at the Internet Archive. You’ll find a lot of dramas, news, comedy and variety programs available.

For other classes where I get to indulge radio more, I usually audition these programs to get a sense of the different formats available.

  • Amos and Andy, “Andy Reads a Law Book,” July 3, 1929. A comedy that traffics in some pretty racist stereotypes of the not-so-distant past. However, note that the comedy follows the straight-man and the stooge template of comedy duos and is entirely premised on literacy.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933. This excerpt of FDR’s first radio address to the nation explains why he chose to close the banks: it’s so that people don’t all take their money out at the same time. Note his use of two opposite tropes: fear vs. faith.
  • Rudy Vallee on the Royal Gelatin Hour, August 25, 1938. This singer, and bandleader of the Connecticut Yankees, entertains his audience in classic variety show style. As a recreational softball player, I appreciate the interview with the softball player.
  • CBS News, “London After Dark,” August 25, 1940. This dispatch gives radio listeners in the US a sense of what it was like in London during the “Blackout,” when the entire city was kept in the dark so that German bombers couldn’t find their targets. This proves the adage that radio is the most visual of all the media.
  • Burns and Allen, “George Goes to College,” November 29, 1945. George and Gracie are married and living in Hollywood. A lot of the humor is predicated on George being old (he was 49 years old but only half way through his life at the time), Gracie being dumb, and Jack Benny being cheap. Only that last bit was probably true. Also, I don’t know about you but my college didn’t have such an obsession with popularity, but then again, I went to a state school.

Also, if you’re interested in the difference between AM and FM radio, and how static (interference) affects the reception, here’s a US Army film from the 1960s.

I love this stuff so it makes sense to me, but if you need to have something explained, let me know.

Closing the Book on Our Missed Class

Because we cancelled last week’s class due to snow, here’s what we would have covered had we met.

Stage Innovation Form
Development Symbols and Paper Scrolls and Manuscripts
Entrepreneurial Printing Presses Early Books and Codices
Mass Market Industrialization Paperback Books
Convergence Electronic and Digital Media Publishing Conglomerates and Ebooks

Be sure to review the readings to get better understanding of the history of the book industry. Also, review our coverage of other print media, specifically as newspapers and magazines, as that material overlaps a great deal with the book industry.

Class Cancelled, February 13

A snowflake captured by the Beltsville Electron Microscopy Unit, part of the USDA.

A snowflake captured by the Beltsville Electron Microscopy Unit, part of the USDA.

Due to the snowstorm, our class has been cancelled.

Next week, we will discuss the book industry material and then quickly move on to the recorded music industry.

Do the assignment by next Thursday’s class, and also read the material. Although we usually don’t discuss the reading, the material could still be on the exam.

Stay vertical, everyone.

Magazines and Digital Convergence

In case you didn’t get to watch it before class, do watch the following video. It is a roundtable discussion on magazine with four editors from the Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, The New Republic and XO Jane.

Skip past the opening remarks and forgive the poor quality of the audio. They have a keen understanding of the challenges they face in the digital age. And they’re really excited about them.

If you’re wondering about the magazines I demonstrated in class, here they are:

  • The Magazine. This was initially designed as an iPad app first then migrated to iPhone and the web as a set of curated stories that would be published every two weeks. It speaks to nerds like me (and maybe you!) It has no advertising and subsists entirely on subscribers.
  • Medium. This is an open publishing platform where anyone can publish a story or article. As far as I know, it has no revenue but attracts a pretty literate audience.
  • Quartz. This is a storytelling magazine, frequently updated, but its coverage is loosely focused on the economy. They have some high-end advertisers and sponsored content, what is colloquially known as “native advertising”.

After class, Neil pointed out Google Currents, which is a social magazine, that runs on Android and iOS. That reminded me of Flipboard, which aggregates news from your social networks into a single magazine-like experience.

And what exactly is Facebook Paper?

Assignment due Next Thursday

A few minutes after I dismissed class tonight, I looked at my phone. It displayed this overdue reminder:

Discuss assignment in class.

I was supposed to discuss the Who Owns the Media in Your Town? assignment. It is due next week.

For this assignment, you are to use the resources listed on the syllabus to locate the media properties of the following type in your town.

  • local newspapers
  • broadcast radio
  • broadcast television
  • mobile telephone service
  • broadband Internet service
  • cable television service

Write your summary and come prepared to discuss that in class.

The Way We Watch

Study: TV Viewers Prefer Not to Multitask – The Hollywood Reporter:

The survey also found that viewers are largely uninterested in online discussions about the shows they watch.  Most of the survey was split between TiVo users and non-TiVo users, and 55 percent of the latter agreed with the statement: “I only want to discuss TV with people I know, not with Internet strangers.”

Although this study was commissioned by TiVo, which begs us to question their biases and motivations, it is goes against what we read in our textbook this week.

Now with the proliferation of social media, and in particular Twitter, we can discuss that program with our friends—and with strangers—as we watch the show. Many TV shows now gauge their popularity with audiences by how many people are “live-tweeting” it, and by how many related trending topics they have on Twitter.[1]

Do you have any ideas why this study would contradict conventional wisdom about the way we watch?

  1. Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age, 9th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2014.  ↩