Facebook just bought Instagram…don’t flip out just yet

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My jaw just dropped with the news I received from MacRumors that Facebook, the social network, is buying Instagram, a photo-sharing app and the rising star of the social media world.

I know what you’re thinking…

W…T…F?!

Another media giant buying out a smoking hot tech start-up, turning the cool new indie thing into the latest corporate toy.

Luckily, Facebook appears to be taking a very smart approach here: become the financial backbone of what’s already become an established sensation, and one that’s here to stay.

So, hopefully, that means we don’t see INSTABOOK anytime soon.

Just last week, game developer Zynga purchases OMGPOP, the company behind the latest buzzworthy iOS game Draw Something.

And it wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft, the biggest kid on the tech playground, bought Skype. Another shocking moment in tech buyout history.

Now think about the two players in a buyout like that: people love Skype, and everyone hates Microsoft. Skype brings us closer to our relatives afar through free or inexpensive international phone calls and video calls. Microsoft makes Windows PCs! Blegh. Viruses, nerds and Bill Gates.

But so far, Skype is still Skype. Big bad Microsoft hasn’t closed up Skype’s shop and rates haven’t changed (as far as I know). For once, a merger has gone smoothly, and independence reigns, while corporate parents Microsoft still gets the perks. In this case, that’s Xbox Kinect integration.

For previous tech mergers gone really bad, we can always look to AOL Time Warner.

And more recently, AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post has been a learning experience for both sides. More on that from TechCrunch.

Here’s to hoping Facebook keeps its promise and Instagram remains great.

Current TV cuts ‘Vanguard’ staff

The 2010 Vanguard team

I can only imagine how my old friends at Vanguard are feeling right now.

Vanguard is — er, was Current TV‘s critically acclaimed, yet underappreciated documentary series.

Vanguard stood out in a lot of ways.

It strived to tell stories that weren’t being reported and investigated issues in a captivating way that appealed to young people. In part, that’s because the personalities you see on the above poster are younger, hipper and more impassioned than your typical TV reporter.

A lot of people are probably familiar with something about Current.

First off, it was started by Al Gore in 2005. Then there’s the two Vanguard journalists who were detained in North Korea in 2009; Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

More recently, the network brought on progressive liberal talkshow host Keith Olbermann and gave him a major stake in the network to help transform and refine what has been a long, drawn-out experiment in really cool things that didn’t always work (pods, or short-form pieces and user-generated material have been two big ones that have been mostly phased out).

The interesting thing here is that Olbermann revered Vanguard and stated the show would be a focal part of the network’s future. To date, that has included the prime-time 9pm spot after Olbermann’s own show on certain nights.

The New York Times’ Media Decoder blog broke the news Dec. 4:

In what some called a cost-cutting move, the channel last week dismissed most of the roughly 10 “Vanguard” employees. Some were offered other jobs. The channel will continue to produce “Vanguard” documentaries, but with freelancers.

David Bohrman, the president of Current TV, said in a statement that production was not being canceled. “But given the network’s new focus on political news and analysis, we have chosen to change the present in house production model for ‘Vanguard.’

It is essential that Current keeps these talented reporters and producers on board in one form or another. Some of them have been around since the inception of this fledgling cable network and it would be insulting to eliminate the staple that has, although flimsily, kept just a hint of the old Current alive in the midst of the new, politically-charged agenda.

Check out my previous posts on Current and Vanguard. I interned with Vanguard in the Los Angeles offices during a tumultuous time that included Ling and Lee’s return from Korea and unannounced layoffs.

Read the full details on Media Decoder.

New ‘Countdown’ begins on Current TV

The liberal firebrand news host known as Keith Olbermann returns to television tonight after departing from MSNBC a little under six months ago.

As I reported HERE, Olbermann takes his “Countdown” show to the fledgling TV station and Web community known as Current TV and Current.com. (Current was founded in 2005 and pulls in under 60,000 viewers during peak hours according to the New York Times)

The real motivation for Olbermann here is a majority stake in the company. He joins former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt as an executive of the company.

Full disclosure: I interned for Current’s Vanguard back in summer ’09. Blogged about my experience here and also contributed to Current’s news blog here and here.

Current is not exactly a house name just yet, but getting a heavy hitter such as Olbermann on board may start to change that — at lest that’s what the station is banking on.

Besides Vanguard and now Olbermann, the network received mass media spotlight for its two reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, that were held captive in North Korea.

Keep an eye on this five-year-old channel, because despite setbacks and low ratings, (around 25,000 viewers during prime time) shows like Vanguard, infoMania and now Olbermann’s are worthy of your attention.

Current has always been forward-facing: it initially gathered much of it’s programming through incorporating submissions from online contributors and was the first station to incorporate tweets into it’s coverage of the 2008 presidential debate.

But with new efforts focused on getting the station into more homes and a recent redesign (or more like design overhaul), I have heard few outcries but my own over what I find to be one very big problem:

Current, which was known for bridging the online and televised worlds, stopped allowing full episodes online. So much for anywhere, any time. What year is it?

The channel says the only way to continue carriage on networks like Verizon, TimeWarner and Comcast was to offer exclusive deals and Olbermann tweeted that the TV companies have them “over a barrel.”

Instead, Current is pushing clips big time, all over Hulu, iTunes and YouTube.

But for those of us who already cancelled our exorbitant cable subscriptions, we’re shit out of luck.

I can’t even legally purchase the shows in their entirety…anywhere. Now that’s just not right.

That’s why I scheduled a viewing party of sorts at a friends house for tonight’s premieres of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a new season of Vanguard.

WATCH TONIGHT: Countdown premieres at 8/9c and Vanguard’s new season follows at 9/8c.

Check out behind the scenes with “Countdown” HERE.

A place where dead TV series can live on

I’m a little late in the game on this one, but I finally got around to watching the season finale of NBC’s “The Event.

While far from one of my favorite shows (LOST, 24, Fringe), “The Event” blends all the genres I love: action, adventure, sci-fi and drama.

But, as good-but-expensive television series go, it was recently announced that “The Event” was cancelled. Damn!

Every time I get engrossed in a good new series, the money-hungry network execs cancel the crap out of them.

Last year it was “Flash Forward” and this year it was the “The Event.”

I was REALLY, REALLY upset when I found out about “Flash Forward” last season. Loved this show and I was totally hooked. Great character development, intriguing government conspiracies, double-crossing intelligence agents, the works — everything a man needs for a good TV show.

Both shows ended after a single season, and both ended with a bang — basically the same concept that started the show’s plot happened again. Sounds cheesy, but it worked for me. Same sort of thing worked for Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer in eight seasons of “24.” (Where’s that “24” movie we’ve been hearing about anyway?)

The real news here is the rumor that “The Event” may resurface on SyFy.

According to media blog The Deadline, the producers of the show have received interest from multiple cable and digital entities, including Netflix and SyFy.

If there’s one trend I like in the TV world these days, is the continuing rise of services like Netflix and Hulu and a creative desire to try out new kinds of programming. Or in this case, find a home for a quality show that didn’t have enough viewers to remain on primetime.

Sure, it’s easier to get lost in the sea of Web videos, between YouTube’s memes and Vimeo’s fledgling filmmakers, but we must do something to keep the quality.

America has already been sucked deep into reality shows like “The Real Housewives”, “The Bachelor”, “Survivor” and “American Idol.” Personally, I don’t need to turn on the TV to see what other people’s “real” lives are scripted to look like. It’s all just a bunch of cat fights and teary-eyed nonsense anyway.

But here’s to forward-thinking operations. It’s 2011, come on guys. If a show musters up a hardcore niche fanbase, no matter how relative sized it may be, that’s got to be something worth banking on. What about iTunes launching its own series? Season pass only.

Or how about Comcast, who now owns NBC and controls plentiful TV pipes, going iPad-only on a show like the Event? We can AirPlay it or Slingbox it onto our widescreens and get the full experience for a fraction of the investment.

I know the writers over at Pop Culture Junkie would agree.

It’s time to find new ways of keeping the good content alive when a major network station can’t afford to take a risk or think outside the damn box.

Current TV adds Olbermann to shake things up

The tectonic plates of the American media landscape are starting to shift once again.

Two major events have given me a new spirit of hope in news media, both occurring this week. And both by Tuesday!

First off, Keith Olbermann, the former liberal host of MSNBC‘s “Countdown” announced that he will be starting a new show on Current TV, the fledgling entertainment and world affairs network founded by former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt in 2005.

Olbermann told reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning that it will be an “amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did.”

But the even bigger news here is that Olbermann will become Current Media’s Chief News Officer and take an equity stake in the company. Meaning he will be up there with Joel, Al and CEO Mark Rosenthal as one of the hotshots.

Current’s own employees didn’t know a thing until the New York Times announced it.

At least that’s what Mariana Van Zeller, one of the investigative reporters in Current’s investigative documentary series “Vanguard“, told me today in an e-mail.

Keep an eye on this five-year-old channel, because despite setbacks and low ratings, (around 25,000 viewers during prime time) shows like Vanguard, infoMania and now Olbermann’s are worthy of your attention.

Full disclosure of course: I interned for Vanguard in 2009. Blogged about my experience here and also contributed to Current’s news blog here and here.

Read more about Current’s reinvention here from MediaBistro.

….

NEXT UP: AOL + HuffPost = a reinvention of the news wheel?

I think I see a pattern, Hollywood…

We’ve all experienced how the media repeats, regurgitates and reiterates itself in so many ways.

Any typical “breaking” “news” story (see balloon boy, Tiger Woods, White House party crash, and on and on) turns into an ugly mess of clichés and sensationalism on a regular basis. Who can keep track of who’s liberal, moderate or conservative anymore when they’re all ditching coverage of the war, our president and Congress to latch onto the latest scandal.

And that’s just the news media these days.

The entertainment side seems to be throwing fists these days, trying to make a hit out of something – I take that back, anything. Which is fine, I guess, to see Megan Fox’s rack sell a movie, or Hollywood picking up way too much on a trend like the latest: vampires. Gone are Buffy and Angel, here are: True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire’s Assistant, and don’t forget — The Vampire Diaries. I’m sure I’m missing a few, but you get the point.

Either way, all of this brings me to something I found pretty hilarious. A couple posters a bit too similar for (hopefully) any average consumer’s taste…no pun intended:

A striking similarity between “Jennifer’s Body” and “True Blood” —

lick in the lips left

lickin the lips right

OH…and don’t forget Six Feet Under, with the lipstick, reminding me of the above posters.

lipsticking the lips

…But the avoid the cliché award shockingly goes to Lipstick Jungle for simply showing the women and not the lipstick.

no lips here

The economy…still an issue

calopoly1

Back on January 27, The Poly Post put out “the economy issue” and created CALOPOLY, the economic crisis game of chance, distress, and foreclosures.

I would really like to see our creation turned into an interactive graphic available on our website. That would mean putting my graphic designer/web guy to work even more, as he already has the weight of our website on him weekly. If not an actual animated game, at least something where people can scroll over different boxes for information and links and the related stories we published.

It’s your turn, people

In case you missed it, Thursday’s Poly Post Web site Launch Party was a big success with nearly 150 in attendance.dan-in-real-life

Not too shabby for Cal Poly standards – sorry CPP, but I’ve seen many an empty event in my days.

Along with watching free chicken fly out the door, the Poly Post editors had the opportunity to identify ourselves in person and show off a newly redesigned thepolypost.com.

I had been working all last quarter with my graphic designers, marketing director and editors to find out what we wanted to offer and how we wanted things to look.

My favorite aspect of the new site is the more modern appearance that is immediately noticeable to the viewer. High quality photos show off our lead stories with a headline to link you to the rest, and buttons above provide easy links to advertise, submit a letter to the editor or check out our multimedia page.

You’ll notice the blog button doesn’t direct you anywhere just yet. That’s because the feature is still on its way. The idea here is for each columnist on staff to develop a following through updates in between editions of the newspaper, and allow for more feedback from readers.

In addition to that, the photo editors will be displaying the talents of our photographers and offer some artistic insight in a photo blog.

Even more exciting is the long overdue campus blog that is well on its way.

There is so much that happens on Cal Poly’s campus that goes overlooked, and due to space constraints, not everything can make its way into our weekly newspaper, or any of the other university media outlets.

Expect daily updates here, as the theme is a noticed or observed around campus kind of reporting, that will also include follow-ups on big news like the ASI strategic plan, student government elections, Mr. and Ms. CPP and the university’s identity campaign.

What I hope was made clear in the info session portion of Thursday’s event was that the nine editors at The Poly Post devote a large part of our lives to this job for very little compensation.

We do it because we love it, but we would all like it to take up just a little less time. We sacrifice our weekends and meet three times a week to make sure everything is coming into place and on schedule. And that’s just the surface.

We are all qualified to be paid a lot more for what we are capable of, yet my max stipend earns me about a dollar an hour based upon my calculations.

We’re volunteering hours upon hours while most of you have the day off – from school, at least.

Before the unexpected, but welcome, accusations from the audience during a brief Q&A, we kicked off the event with a photo slideshow and entertaining video asking students what they know about The Poly Post.

The answers in the video – which is available on the home page of the new Web site – were revealing in both good and bad ways.

We discovered from a random polling of 10 to 15 students, that they all knew what The Poly Post was and each had a few favorites.

But they were definitely not very aware of our Web site, which was why we wanted to promote it with the launch party.

What students and campus organizations must realize is that the Post exists to serve you. While we enjoy sharing our opinions, we’re a group of less than 30 people trying to cover a university of around 22,000 students.

So take that into account before you start tearing us a new one.

If you don’t think we’re doing our job well, I encourage…no, I challenge you to do something about it.

Apathy is death, after all.

Feedback fuels our drive to keep doing what we’re doing, so show us some love – or hate (OK, dislike would be preferable) – with a comment, letter or e-mail.

Basically, we’re asking you to utilize us.

E-mail calendar@thepolypost.com or advertise@thepolypost.com to promote an event.

E-mail news@thepolylpost.com to get your story heard. And check out thepolypost.com to see what’s going on around you.

Use your campus newspaper and an online media hub to reach the campus population.

Or join up and take the reigns after I leave.