A la carte TV a tough sell on the Hill

Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) Television Consumer Freedom Act bill, which would give consumers the option to buy channels on an a la carte basis instead of in tiers, got its first airing before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday but it didn’t find a lot of takers.

Could e-books be a game-changer for 2012 Presidential candidates?

In today’s crowded media marketplace, presidential candidates (and their media consultants) have an almost mind-boggling number of mediums in which to get a message across. From TV to talk radio to the printed word and all the permutations in between, there’s no doubt that a mastery of the message means, in large part, mastering the channels in which they are communicated across.
And while some channels of communication — such as cable TV, print news and talk radio — are fairly mature, history tells us early mastery of any new medium can give a candidate a discernible advantage in a given election cycle.
For example, it’s commonly accepted that Kennedy’s performance in his televised debate with Nixon helped him win in the 1960 presidential election, while Obama’s more evolved social media strategy gave the Democrat a competitive advantage that, in the end, helped deliver him the presidency.
But what about the book?  Judging by Obama’s success with The Audacity of Hope in 2008 and the rush by the current crop of 2012 candidates to push tomes out this primary election season, the book, while perhaps the oldest of all the mediums outside of speaking in the public square, is still one of the most effective ways for candidates to inject their messages into the stream of conversation.
As publisher Peter Cosnos puts it in this NPR piece, “If you can get somebody to buy it, a book has a great virtue. It’s just you and the reader. There is no interviewer; there is nobody to get in the way.”
However, while books can certainly be effective, the paper book is the product of an inarguably antiquated distribution model. To push a book out through traditional publishing means putting your message on the slow train to the voter; a book usually gets to the reader months after the final draft was written.
But just as the Internet (and in particular YouTube (s goog)) has reshaped the way campaigns use video to get messages quickly out to the voter, is it possible e-books could create a similar disruption in how candidates reach voters through the written — and electronic — word?
If early e-book pioneers who were able to bypass the byzantine and slow-moving world of traditional book publishing are any indication, than yes.  John Locke, Bob Mayer and other authors have been able to go direct to consumer — with the help of Amazon (s amzn) — and reach a much wider audience.  So why couldn’t presidential candidates, or politicians in general, do the same?
In order to do so, candidates would need to change the way they think about the book today. Instead of viewing a book as a brute-force, one-size-fits-all message delivery vehicle it drops in one big package every election cycle, candidates need to instead think about how they could instead deliver a stream of targeted messaging throughout the long election cycle with electronic publishing.
Imagine for a moment if Obama or the prospective GOP candidate were able to publish e-books in advance of major debates, or to convey certain messages to address voter concerns.  One month a candidate could focus on national security, the next he or she could convey his or her personal story through a media-rich e-book with photos and video interviews.
Or, looking back, ponder how things might have been different last election cycle if, for example, McCain released an e-book with his plan for economic stability in the face of the financial crisis that assuaged concerns of those who thought he may not have had a plan, while also giving the faithful talking points to distribute by word of mouth.
Candidates also need to maximize what’s possible in this new medium.  By releasing enhanced e-books, they can create highly personalized messages rich with video and audio; they can become more humanized to the voter.
Lastly, with the traditional book model, candidates are often their own biggest enemy as they seek high book advances and try to climb the bestseller lists to put more money into their pockets.  This traditional approach to the traditional model only serves to create expensive books the vast majority of voters never buy.
But what if a candidate looked at the e-book as an interactive application complete with fundraising capabilities built in?  Would they possibly consider distributing all their e-books for free if they could, somehow, garner campaign contributions through an in-book (or in-app) payment model? E-books and enhanced e-book apps could become the main way in which candidates could come into many voters homes and, in a sense, fill their campaign coffers.
Book and e-book purists may be moaning at the thought of a flood of campaign e-books filled with talking points and calls for contributions. But that is, for better or for worse, what campaigns are about, and if these same messages are flooding every other medium during campaign seasons, it was only inevitable that the campaign would eventually come to the e-book.

MacBook Air Acting Up, Just in Time for Holidays

The launch of Apple’s new unibody aluminum Macs hasn’t been the smoothest ride, for both the company and its loyal customers. There was disappointment over what didn’t (Firewire) and what did (HDCP) make it into the new machines. The innovative new trackpad design nearly underwhelmed thanks to a glitch that resulted in it failing to recognize clicks every so often. Finally, two graphics-related issues began cropping up in MacBooks and MacBook Pros, problems which Apple is currently investigating.

Click image to see detail

Apparently, the MacBook Air was tired of its bulkier cousins getting all the negative attention. Recent reports from users indicated Apple’s ultra-portable is also experiencing problems associated with graphics output. Machines are being returned to Apple because of “laid” displays, a problem in which faint, horizontal or slightly angled gray lines appear, spanning the entire width of the notebook’s screen. Luckily (or maybe unluckily, depending on your perspective), the lines are said to appear immediately after booting, so you’ll know right away if your machine’s affected. The photo to the right shows what to look for if you’re unsure about your own Air.
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The Final Online Video Tally: Obama’s Long Primary Season Prepped Him for the Win

Barack Obama beat John McCain by a narrow margin in the popular vote and a hearty margin in the electoral college. But what about the online video vote, where it all comes down to the number of views? There the margin was somewhere in between, with Obama pulling in nearly 900 million views compared to McCain’s 550 million.
That’s according to divinity Metrics, a video analytics startup that measures the spread of videos for marketers and content producers. CEO Rajeev Kadam noted that Obama’s video view lead was built up, in part, by the long Democratic primary race, where he was fighting Hillary Clinton in person and on the web while McCain sat pretty as his party’s chosen candidate. (Sorry, but you’ll have to click on the graphs above to see them in full size; they’re too wide for our column.)
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Vid-Biz: Quantcast, McCain, Indecency

Quantcast Signs MTV Networks; company will provide web metrics for MTVN sites. (AdWeek)
John McCain on Losing the Election; big ideas site Big Think sat down with the GOP candidate a few months ago and asked him what it would mean to him if he lost the election. (Big Think Blog)

Supreme Court Hears Indecency Case; FCC and networks duke it out over fleeting expletives. (TVWeek)
TV Networks Eye India; Viacom, Time Warner and GE-backed channels all vying for a piece of Bollywood, where TV ad spending is expected to grow for years. (The Wall Street Journal)
“Anti-Piracy Hero” Shot Dead; Kasim Cha Tong, former regional director for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, was gunned down in Thailand; police looking into the possibility that this was an assassination. (TorrentFreak)
FCC Looks Into Cable TV Pricing; commission opening investigation into the practices of cable operators and Verizon, including the shifting of analog stations to digital. (The Associated Press)

Palin Says Obama Plans to “Bankrupt” Coal

On the eve of election day, the debate on clean coal vs. no coal has reared its head again, injecting back into the campaign anxiety over what a cap-and-trade program will mean for America’s huge coal industry. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, campaigning along the Ohio-West Virginia border, today attacked Obama, claiming that the Democratic presidential candidate plans to bankrupt the coal industry. With coal-producing states like Pennsylvania, Virgina and Colorado being hotly contested in this election, such attacks carry extra weight.
Palin cites an audio clip, from an interview Obama did with the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year, released promoted online Sunday. In the section she cites, Obama explains the impact his cap-and-trade carbon scheme will have on coal power: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama said. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” The Obama campaign responded, calling the quote “wildly edited.” That hasn’t stopped the RNC, which has reportedly already incorporated the sound byte into a new robocall.
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Post-Debate Vid Picks: Joe the Plumber, McCain’s Eyerolls

According to CBS News, last night’s Presidential debate was a clear victory for Barack Obama — but don’t worry, “Joe the Plumber” is still John McCain’s BFF. After the debate, Ohioan Joe Wurzelbacher became a big get for the talk-show circuit — calling into Fox News to label Obama a socialist

…and appearing on Good Morning America this morning to speak with Diane Sawyer about the complexities of the tax plan.
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Hulu to Live-Stream Obama-McCain Debate

Add Hulu to the list of places live-streaming John McCain and Barack Obama duking it out in their remaining presidential debates. The site will stream NBC’s coverage of Tuesday’s debate from Belmont University in Nashville Tenn. starting at 9 p.m. EST.

This is also the first time that Hulu is live-streaming content. Hulu told paidContent that live-streaming is something the site is “experimenting with initially as the presidential debates are highly relevant now.”

And since Hulu is a joint venture between NBC and FOX, the site is giving equal time by splitting up the streaming duties. Next week, Hulu will live-stream FOX News’ coverage of the debate on Oct. 15th. The site will carry on-demand versions of both debates following the live broadcasts as its done for previous ones.

The debate coverage is part of the new Hulu Election ’08 section of the site, which launched today. This new section also carries campaign coverage, interviews, humorous political clips and sketches from shows like Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, commentary from NBC and FOX shows, and more.

Hulu’s already been a big beneficiary of this election cycle as one of the only places to watch Tina Fey’s spot-on impersonation of Gov. Sarah Palin.

Hulu joins a lengthy list of sites live-streaming coverage of the McCain-Obama debate including MySpace, Current, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and C-SPAN.