I’ve Moved!

04Jan09

You can find me at http://nicolecifani.com.

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5 years ago when I was in grad school, my media theory professor proclaimed that “years from now you’re going to remember me as the old lady yakking on about something called convergence”. I was intrigued. Then and there I decided to work this into my career somehow. Although I wasn’t quite sure how as this very process of convergence – the merging of television, internet, and radio – was and still is unfolding before our eyes.

This merging of mediums distinctly affects how we receive media from both a technological standpoint and an experiential one. Given the growing advantage of communicating easily and directly between viewers via mobile technology and the internet, the experience is no longer passive.

The other afternoon as I waited in line to pick up dry cleaning (mine, not someone else’s thankyouverymuch) I caught a few scenes of an old episode of Married with Children. The show seemed so dated and not just because of Marcy D’arcy’s wacky hairdos. The script plodded along and lacked the jumpy camera shots, asides, and irreverent dialogue that we’ve come to expect from reality shows and newer sitcoms like 30 Rock and Arrested Development that seamlessly weave multiple characters, story-lines and alternate visual scenes.

Narrative has evolved past traditional mis-en-scene on a studio set with scripted dialogue. With the advancement of technology it allows not only backchannel conversation about a show but also sets a stage for supplemental original content and conversation (there are also tremendous marketing opportunities here of which I’ll touch upon in another post).

The second season of AMC’S Mad Men that just wrapped a few weeks ago incorporated the micro-blogging tool Twitter to further the viewing experience by allowing a viewer – or simply the curious – to engage in direct dialogue with each of the main characters. Twitter updates from the so-called characters (called “brand-ambassadors”) provide bonuses like tiny updates throughout the day like what the character may be doing on a given day and what his or her thoughts are on relationships with the other characters. You can even send direct messages to your favorite character and receive a message back.

This season I followed Don Draper, Betty Draper, Peggy Olson, Roger Sterling, and Ken Cosgrove. One evening I fell asleep watching an episode and awoke to notice that Betty Draper was following me on Twitter. If that’s not spooky enough, I Twittered about the experience and almost immediately received a response from Betty: “I hoped it’d be a nice surprise, I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m sorry.”

In Australia a show called OZ Girl is slated to launch January 12th, becoming Australia’s “first social web show”. The show streams online only and encourages fans to participate by interacting directly with the main character on Facebook, Twitter, and email.

By paving the way for this non-linear narrative between television and the internet, a stronger bond is created between the viewer and the brand.

The viewer becomes an empowered fan with the ability to learn more about the characters identity, participate in dialog surrounding last night’s episode on chat rooms, buy music heard on the show, leave comments, stream b-rolls or supplementary content, and share media with friends.

For the content creator this provides almost instantaneous feedback. It also allows direct marketing opportunities, more of which I’ll touch on in a later post. As a viewer, the show becomes increasingly integrated into my lifestyle. I can watch and participate how, when, and where I want to – and this seems to be where we’re headed.


I spent the past weekend with 3 girlfriends in Palm Springs and was amazed at how empty the town appeared to be. We stayed at the Viceroy (or the Niceroy as dubbed by some), and arrived to be informed that we were upgraded to the largest private villa on the property. As we imbibed 2 free bottles of Veuve and appetizers, we waited (lounged?) poolside as the suite was prepared for us.

We later ventured to the Parker which also seemed quiet with the exception of a small party held in the banquet hall (note: no freebies there although we didn’t stay long enough to try).

I wonder if the room upgrade was indicative of the state of the travel industry – is this common now?-  or was it just a slow weekend? We imagined that more people would be in Palm Springs given the change of weather along with recent fires in that have made the air quality in LA less than optimal. Will there be more big deals and random upgrades in our future? If so, I’ll be happy to travel more! Now if Continental would upgrade my upcoming flight to Cleveland to first class…


Wired Magazine is having another photo contest – and this time the subject is music. Submit your photos here or check them out and submit your vote. Note: my pictures are towards the end!

Wired Magazine photo contest


Taking in the presidential election results on Tuesday happened in different places in various ways.  Beginning at 4pm at work we tuned the TV to CNN.  NPR was on the radio. and I had npr.org and the NY Times both open on my computer.

Later on I went home to twitter the unfolding results for KCRW, the Santa Monica-based radio station where I work.  I felt particularly anxious – preferring to avoid the parties and mayhem on the streets of LA to enjoy and reflect upon on the outcome at home. But I didn’t feel alone, and I wasn’t. 

 I twittered as the results came in and people responded with comments like “Ooh. I like this show. One of my faves. Thanks.” and “Spanky, Spanky, Spanky, Ms Dole. Naughty campaign.”  Twitter allowed for real-time conversation fostered among strangers and among friends.  On Facebook, friends’ status messages lit up with their reactions and observations. My cell phone rang with calls from friends and family from Ohio and Los Angeles. It bleeped with incoming text messages from Paris, Boston, San Fran, and  Columbus, OH. I excitedly chatted with friends on IM. 

CNN’s live video feed was broadcasting in one window and Twitter’s election page was running in another. The NYTimes election module, San Fran Chronicle, and Current TV’s election coverage were open in other tabs. NPR was blasting through the apartment (and a few of my neighbors). When the final results were announced, people were dancing, shouting and hollering with joy in the streets on the sleepy block in the beach town of Santa Monica where I live.

I think back to how this relates to the last election.  Sites like Twitter, FB, and Current TV were still babies – if they had even been born yet. The technology required to build nimble news modules was not nearly as evolved.

The ability to communicate with others with lightning speed and accuracy was nothing like it is now. The very way we communicate with one another has totally evolved. As Seth Godin recently said,  “The transformation of communication is real, it’s permanent and it’s more powerful than most of us notice”.

The last administration was a secretive club that could easily manipulate voters perceptions.  We’re entering a new era where we’re constantly being informed and always plugged-in, whether we like it or not. 

The internet has finally become a forum for public discourse. I can quickly and easily express who I am voting for and why. I’m not going to try to convince you to do anything – just give you reasons why I think the way I do. And because we think in a similar way, maybe you’ll be open to what I say compared to, oh I don’t know, Fox News. When election time rolls around, being from Ohio becomes especially important to me. I grew up knowing lots of people (including myself at one point) who can be easily swayed by what they hear in their sheltered communities at church or around the dinner table. It’s a self-perpetuating  mechanism with no incoming feed from the outside world.   

Not anymore.


I like the clean interface. It’s easy to use and not too flashy (I guess we’ll see how long that lasts).

Check it out


Oftentimes people are interested to hear that I don’t have cable or basic television channels at home. I own an hdtv for viewing films and videocasts – and that’s about it. Admittedly, this wasn’t a renegade decision. I moved earlier in the year from Miracle Mile to Santa Monica and just never got around to turning the cable on. I use citywide wifi for internet (the bandwidth is decent and I don’t need a megawide pipe).

Not surprisingly I’m more productive sans TV. Although it was difficult at first to break the habit, not getting cable has proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I read books, magazines and blogs more often, listen to music, and spend more time getting organized and cleaning the apartment. I do feel unplugged from the outside world from time to time. So, how do I get my news and entertainment fix? Here’s how:

-news
I find radio and the internet to be even more timely and comprehensive than television was. NPR rocks.  News sites and blogs allow me to aggregate feeds in one place, so i can quickly scroll through the news in my own time by selecting headlines to explore that are of relevant interest. Podcasts are also great for catching news shows on demand.

-entertainment

What can I say? Netflix is the bomb. I love having movies on hand to pop in whenever the mood strikes. This way I’m forced to watch something more educational or culturally significant than, say, randomly tuning in to a reality show, a rom-com on TBS or the latest style show on Bravo (don’t get me wrong, I love me some Heidi and Tim!). Sites like Hulu, comedycentral.com and Fancast allow me to stream shorts and full shows when the mood strikes.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you get your entertainment outside of traditional cable. Post a comment below!