Stick to the Main Issue: Net Neutrality

I think we can all agree, especially given everything happening at this exact moment in time, Net Neutrality is quite possibly the scariest thing we’ve faced in the digital world. And what’s interesting about this issue, it affects everyone and all industries. There was an article that was released last week on Life Hacker when the FCC announced their plans to end Net Neutrality, it helps explain it in the simplest of terms. And let’s be honest with each other, we all know how much we love Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast. Something this article highlights, which to me is very important, the effect of ending Net Neutrality will put small businesses at a HUGE risk of losing their ability to have a space or for their users to even access their site. Network throttling will become a huge problem and all of the services we enjoy online will rise in addition to how we pay for the Internet. One of the articles we read this week, What is Gen Z? And What Does It Want? spoke about this up and coming generation and how fast they move and decipher information. I can only imagine how the affect of a society without Net Neutrality would have on someone who was used to fast internet.


Another potential issue is how social media will keep itself relevant and top of mind. While it doesn’t look like Facebook will be going anywhere, there is still a need for these brands to continue to keep themselves a top contender. The entire Snapchat business strategy we read about this week was super interesting for that reason as well. What’s working may not be the most profitable for long term sustainability. And with social media comes the ethics of targeted advertising. Something Sir Tim Berners-Lee talks about in The Future of the Web “We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there.”

The thing about any digital issue is education. People need to read and educate themselves to decide where they stand on these issues. These issues are not about party politics. And while party politics get thrown into the course because of corporations funding certain politicians, it is important to read past propaganda and actually research to make a decision and then make your voice heard. As a society, we have to come together on the main issue of Net Neutrality and work collectively towards keeping government regulations in place. Granted, that is my personal opinion on the issue.

As I look at what all we read this week, it still goes back to Net Neutrality for me, and more specifically, ethics within advertising. Berners-Lee talked about it and several of the articles we read mentioned it. We have over-discussed with friends and in the classroom how the 2016 election panned out both in the primaries and in the general election. This issue of political advertising was called out after the 2012 election but nothing was done about it to avoid other governments buying ads. There has to be a code of ethics and these sites that make revenue off of ads need to keep a moral obligation to their users.


Monkey Business

I’m always amazed at how our readings and blog posts coincide with the podcasts I’m listening to at the time. I’m sure some of you listened to last week’s episode of This American Life: So a Monkey and a Horse Walk Into a Bar and particularly the first act which focused on the story of David Slater and the photograph he helped capture of Ella. NOTE: Ella captured the photo herself, she took a selfie, so Wikimedia’s argument is that it is public domain since she is animal. Slater claims intellectual property on the photo and PETA then took Slater to court. A monkey was suing Slater.


So this segues nicely into our readings and how intellectual and artistic property affects media. I have never been a fan of Girl Talk but I vaguely remember hearing about him. The video RiP! A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor does an excellent job explaining both sides of the issue. Copyright was invented to help art and creation to continue forward from generation on but having access to information (cue the printing press) creates more problems. With the rise of the Internet and sites like Napster, another plethora of issues came to fruition.

Previous works of art helps to inspire new creation. Some of my favorite movies or plays were inspired by other pieces. And as a creator, I can definitely pay tribute to where my ideas were sparked from and how I took those ideas or creative choices and made them my own. Take for example Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo + Juliet. The film itself is copyrighted whereas Shakespeare (as we all know) is public domain. So you do not need to do anything if you are looking to create your own version of R&J but you would need to consult Baz Luhrmann’s camp if you are trying to to show a clip of from the film. So where does this line draw?

Girl Talk and other mashup style artists are being confined to a sometimes strict, dated, and hindering practice. But with respect to the original artist, I also understand the flip side. Granted, I had no clue the story behind The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony (which I always love to listen to when on a roadtrip). And I understand the evolution of a song and where it could be argued it is derived from, we all know the connection baseline connection between Under Pressure (another personal favorite) and Ice Ice Baby. I honestly think it comes down to how the song is being re-purposed and does it follow the 4 factors that Columbia University laid out for fair use.

Factor 1: The Purpose and Character of the Use
Factor 2: The Nature of the Copyrighted Work
Factor 3: The Amount or Substantiality of the Portion Used
Factor 4: The Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for or Value of the Work

As we look at more legal considerations in the digital environment, the issue of net neutrality and protecting basic human rights to access public information and to speak freely come into play. Something that has stuck with me from earlier this semester was how Wikipedia played out and became a non-profit. Aside from just loving this idea in general, the focus on having a site that is for public good and that knowledge should be available to everyone is so important. And while I can understand the need for intellectual property laws, I can’t get on board with negating net neutrality. If Trump does follow through with his attack on this, what I consider to be a human right, there is a whole new discussion to have here. But then again, I think the whole Trump administration is just a bunch of monkey business (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

The Long Tail of Entertainment


As we look at our lives, I think most people will agree they love to have options. We want to know we are making the best decision for that particular item. Plus, we know we can typically find the best price online. As we search for something super unique, we find online shopping to be infinitely easier due to the access to all those quirky items you can’t seem to find in a brick and mortar. The items that do not sell enough to warrant physical shelf space, now exists online for those wanting access to it. This can be true of both digital items along with actual physical items that are purchased online. Now, I love options but I get overwhelmed when I search for something specific and THOUSANDS of results come back. So there will always be respect for brick and mortar and pending on the situation, I would rather have a physical than a digital experience. But when it comes to movies, books, and music- is there something better about the digital versus the physical copy? In our house, we tend to be paper people when it comes to books. I have a decent Kindle collection but we are slowly building up our digital library. My husband has a goal to eventually replace his DVDs with digital copies. Side note: he’s a movie buff, this project might cause us to never buy a house.

search results

The way the entertainment industry capitalized sales online is an incredible approach. WIRED’s article The Long Tail by Chris Anderson brought up some really good points surrounding this business model. There is more money to be had in the 80% non-hits verses only focusing on the 20% hits (which is what the brick and mortars were doing). By focusing on hard to find items or simply selling all the other items you can’t find at big box stores, helps create a more profitable business model for the digital world. As venture capitalist Kevin Laws said, “the biggest money is in the smallest sales.” Rather than focusing on large ticket items, the online entertainment world focused its energies on the the number of sales. This particular explanation was written in 2004 which focused on the DVD market of Netflix. A concept, we can all agree, was brilliant when it came out. Since we both have worked in the film industry at one point in our home (and I personally love a good documentary) having access to indie films that we cannot find in store was a huge perk. Side note: this also created an incredible distribution channel for aspiring filmmakers. The ultimate take away from the Long Tail approach is that consumers are treated as individuals due to the abundance of options offered in the digital entertainment world.

long tail graph

As the Internet changed how business is conducted so are the expectations surrounding it. Everyone wants to know they are getting the best deal or getting something for free. The Internet allows businesses the freedom it didn’t once have and gives people the ability to really do whatever they want. Whether it be a consumer or an entrepreneur. Anyone can start a business and by going the way of the Internet, this allows as little start up as possible. Anyone can be “famous” if they choose. The options are endless. I think this is true for anyone wanting to pursue a career in media. We’ve looked at the continuous changing climate of journalism and news organizations and how these entities can still monetize. The business lies in the person. The person is the brand. We follow various people on social media because we like them, their approach, their personality. I, personally, am not a dedicated CNN or MSNBC person; but rather, I follow the person that I like. The truths that they speak and their personal approach to situations or stories. Give me some Anderson Cooper or Van Jones and I’m a happy person. By focusing on the person, this allows for infinite creative freedoms. While large brands may have bigger pull and the ability to distribute your work easier, focusing energies on the person I think is the future for a lot of media. And this can translate to other industries as well.

Photo By Mona T. Brooks

Van Jones – in case you don’t know who he is


The Balancing Act of Product Management

to do

I’ve spent a good portion of my career in the world of producing and production management for creative content, video and online streaming. After watching the Product Manager videos series from Dr. Cindy Royal that was produced for the Knight Center, I feel like I now have a much better understanding of what this role entails. The part with the interviews was super helpful as it laid out what companies are looking for in a product manager and a lot of the roles and responsibilities are similar to what I do now in quality assurance.

In my current role in quality assurance, I focus on the overall product delivery from both the platform and the personnel who execute it. I often find myself bouncing back and forth between engineering, the client, our staff, and sales. I am constantly engaging each aspect of the business and trying to speak a language that makes sense to everyone involved along with bridging the gap between those who speak tech and those who don’t. It was refreshing to hear that product managers do not have to be techies (which is something I always assumed about this role). And this direction seems crucial to the direction of any type of media outlet. As Dr. Royal mentioned in one of her videos, “product management is the continuous innovation for journalists.” What is interesting to think about is that this is the future of journalism and so many other industries as well. Since so much of news consumption exists in the digital world, in order to continue to stay relevant, journalists now producers or product managers and need to wear multiple hats. Journalists are as product managers are encompassing the broader strategic implications of the product itself. There needs to be the person who is looking at the bigger picture at all times and making sure every moving part, person, and decision is working towards this goal. The product manager is doing a balancing act between everything.


I think some of the challenges that exist with integrating a product manager role in journalism, which Dr. Royal mentions in Managing Digital Products in a Newsroom Context, is overseeing other aspects of the brand and working with cross functional teams. Too often everyone gets stuck in their area of the business and (like I said earlier) they forget to keep big picture in mind. Journalists may find themselves getting hyper focused on the story they want to tell and the facts they want to deliver but fail to keep the whole product in mind. Which is another challenge, learning to change your mindset/approach. The sense of ownership and being able to balance the entire process through production is very important. And in journalism, having the ability to create and access data is helpful as well. As mentioned by Anna Codrea-Rado in What Can Journalism Learn from Computer Science having the ability to code along with keeping a journalist mindset is useful as more schools begin to offer this valuable skill set.

While it is not a job requirement for product managers to code, learning the foundations and being able to speak to it, is important. And like Laurence Branford said in Why Every Millennial Should Learn Some Code, it not only makes you more marketable since every business has some sort of technology aspect and it also helps you to think more logically. I am super interested in looking more into product management after the readings and watching the videos this week. Not from a journalism standpoint but from as a content creator/producer.



R.I.P. AIM: The End of an Era


On October 5, 2017, AOL announced the official end of life date for AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) scheduled for December 15, 2017. After a 20 years of an online presence and one of the original instant messenger platforms, it is a sad day for those who still hold to the romantic ideas of AOL when everything online was exciting albeit foreign, and hearing the phrase “you’ve got mail” elicited the most genuine response of joy and wonderment. I can remember leaving my AIM account running so I could talk to friends whenever and feel connected if I was lonely at home. Oh and the sound of hearing the door noises of someone on your buddy list signing on or off. AOL is closely related to my first experiences with the internet and realizing (even if I didn’t know it at the time) my need for connection to others in a digital realm.

Taking off the rose colored glasses, understandably, it is time for AOL to move. While AOL is still in business it is clear that they have migrated away from focusing on instant messaging and into other areas of interest. AOL is a subdivision of Verizon and owns many other media outlets including The Huffington Post, Moviefone, Engadget and TechCrunch. And while there are other instant messaging giants including Facebook Messenger and Skype, there isn’t a need for AOL to improve its already dated product. Although call me a purist, I still prefer AIM to the others.

This begs the question we all want to know? What was your original AIM screen name? Mine was Meganboy1985. My mom made this for me and I could never understand why she didn’t spell out my last name. It really confused people when I joined chat rooms…

An FAQ surrounding the shutdown of AIM can be found here.

Just Add a Quiz

BuzzFeed, since its inception in 2006, has been a slow rising force in the online marketing world. My first memory of BuzzFeed probably goes back to around 2010 when I started utilizing Facebook on my phone. I used to love doing the quizzes in my Seventeen magazine so when I could re-embrace my awkward teenage self and continue to take a quiz that would dictate my life choices, I jumped at all the BuzzFeed links that continued to show up on my news feed.


Regardless of quizzes or video, BuzzFeed has masterminded the art of digital marketing in a creative way. But more importantly, how to get their content viewed by the most people through various third-party apps and platforms all while still gaining data and insight into how their content is perceived/performing. I watched the video within the article Make Content for the Way People Consume Media Today  and it helped make sense of not only the business model behind BuzzFeed but also how other news outlets can approach their own content creation reaching the masses. Data plays a huge part in tracking audience reception and by pulling this information it helps to better understand views and traffic patterns that continues to aide in future content creation. So how can this apply to journalism? By focusing on the technology aspects of the digital world while in school. Everyone needs to be well rounded while getting an education and understand how to create, edit, and post this content online along with how to track this information. Becoming an expert takes time but there is no way any one studying journalism will know how to get their content published online if they do not learn how to program.


Journalism schools, while still teaching the fundamentals, should focus on the how to be relevant in a digital world. By focusing students towards the use of audience data and how to leverage this into creating the content targeted audiences want, this follows the BuzzFeed model of integration within third party apps and letting algorithms works for the journalists. By allowing social media outlets like Facebook work in a journalist’s favor, schools can help students learn how to properly use this. The argument surrounding fake news and what updated sort of code of ethics of these social media sites should be implemented as Emily Bell and Taylor Owen discussed in The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley reengineered journalism. There is a serious problem that will continue to persist as more and more bots continue to post false information. And while Facebook is making an effort to be more journalism friendly and owning to the fact that they are a publisher (even if it originally intended to be a tech company), the use of bots and the overabundance of fake news will continue to persist.

The future of journalism lays in the hands of the various media giants that propel these stories forward. Journalists may miss the days of being able to have their content seen through a newspaper or a single distribution model but as BuzzFeed has mastered content marketing, journalists should look at adopting a multi-distribution model and start to market themselves as the brand rather than the news organization. Just like BuzzFeed did by first drawing my attention with the use of online quizzes, journalists should find their “quiz,” their draw, and how they want to attract users across platforms and channels to read the stories and hear their content.


Take the quiz here.

NOTE: If you are Gilmore fan, feel free to leave your results in the comments. I’m obsessed with this show.


Recap: Women Who Code Panel

Mass Comm Week Poster

This past week Texas State University hosted Mass Comm week. A week geared towards mass communication undergraduate and graduate students. The week was filled with panels, workshops, a career fair, and a variety of other events. I had a unique opportunity to speak on a panel that happened right before I attended the Women Who Code panel. I participated on the Timing is Everything: What I Need from My Grad Degree where current graduate students spoke about what brought them to grad school and advice to give to undergrads as they try to decide their next steps. Both panels took place in the same room and it was interesting to go from speaking to listening and to see a panel that was full of Texas State alum. While we are in the midst of getting a masters degree, these women have them and are working professionals.

Room 320

The Women Who Code panel was moderated by Dr. Cindy Royal, a huge advocate of technology and all things digital in the mass communication program at Texas State. As she opened the panel, there was this heartfelt moment (and I’ll admit, made me a little misty-eyed) where Dr. Royal mentioned this was a career highlight for her. Seeing women not only working in technology but doing a technology drive job was inspiring to all of us. Especially since the majority of people in the mass communication program are not necessarily seeking a tech career but rather we are studying this field and learning valuable tech skills.

The panelists included: Kimberly Cook a recently promoted web experience developer. Rebecca Larson a user experience developer at USAA, Ashley Hebler a web developer for FANS 1st Media, Erika Toney, a recent Texas State graduate and a web developer for Rainman Creative, and Holly Gibson. who is a web developer at Praxent and the director of the Austin Chapter for Women Who Code. While everyone, except for Holly, had the common  experience of being a MA graduate from the Mass Comm program at Texas State, each woman on the panel brought a different viewpoint to the area of coding. From media to agency to technology, all the panelists had a diverse job from one another.


From Left to Right: Moderator: Dr. Cindy Royal, Ashley Hebler, Rebecca Larson, Kimberly Cook, Erika Toney, and Holly Gibson.

The panel, overall, covered a lot of the questions I already had with a very laid back approach to the discussion and a good chunk of time dedicated to women’s issues in technology and how to approach them. While some of the panelists admitted to not experiencing sexism directly, others voiced their concern. The consistent theme from the panelists was speak up as a woman. Don’t be afraid to voice your accomplishments and to make sure you are heard. Holly Gibson said it perfectly, “No one’s going to fight for me, I have to fight for me.” Even though it may feel daunting, it is achievable if women fight for themselves and what they deserve.


The panel also discussed getting a career in coding and where to start. The unanimous advice was centered around networking and building a strong portfolio. It was even recommended that newcomers start out in the agency world (like Erika is currently doing). Overall, it was an incredibly supportive atmosphere and it felt like a strong sense of community behind women in tech and the great work that Women Who Code offers. As someone who is curious about code and if I’ll even like it, I left this panel feeling not only super interested but also excited to learn a new skill that can help expand my creative endeavors.

Women Who Code Panel at Texas State University’s Mass Communication Week


An overarching issue surrounding Women Who Code is the cultural acceptance that women are different from men. As pointed out in Austin Startups there is more in common than different when it comes to men vs women in the workplace. This cultural upbringing has made women depreciate in Computer Science in recent years. But like Dr. Cindy Royal stated in Nieman Lab’s Journalism Schools Need to Get Better at Teaching Tech Where the Girls Are these jobs should focus on where women excel, feel accepted, and already dominating the industry.

What is interesting surrounding the Women Who Code Panel at Texas State University’s Mass Communication week is that these women are all working on the front end of development and typically in roles that are more creative in this respect. Creativity can manifest in many different aspects of a job or company. When I was working with several startup companies in New York, I quickly discovered how creative the startup and entrepreneur world can be and found this creative atmosphere to be invigorating.

Some questions I have for the panelists are:

What made you want to be a front-end developer as opposed to back-end?

When do you feel the most creative within your job?

Specifically for Erica Toney,  how did you transition from being a theatre teacher to web developer? Do you feel there is a correlation between the two?

For Holy Gibson, how do you feel the use of digital media, specifically interactive videos, can help the Down Syndrome community and what should advocates be more focused on in the future?

Google: where wa stom oetry bown

As a Mac and a PC user, I’ve used all the top browsers and have habitually used each browser for a decent amount of time. Due to working in tech and being on the quality assurance side of product delivery, I’m constantly running multiple browsers at a time to ensure issues are not being replicated. Websites behave differently depending on browser version and OS. You’d be amazed at how many companies still use Internet Explorer as their default browser and are running on IE7 (literally everything looks like you time-warped to the mid-2000s).


The division of the company that I work in specializes in our webcasting product. Webcasting is basically delivering a message from one end point (the speaker) to thousands of viewers (the audience) through either audio or video streaming. Working in the world of streaming, you find yourself running into a plethora of issues if someone is accessing streamed content via an old browser that doesn’t recognize the latest in streaming technology. For example, if we are streaming using the current industry standard, HTML5, someone who may be set to compatibility mode on IE7 would have difficulty viewing the content since HTML5 is not recognized on this dated browser. If I am on the phone with a client, my first response is to try accessing our website via Chrome. Thanks to Chrome auto-updating unless there is some sort of network limitation, the client should be running on the latest and greatest and suddenly, everything works fine. NOTE: our product works on the latest version of any browser, but sometimes you can’t guarantee a client has updated their browser in awhile. Hence, I like to start with Chrome as the go to browser to ensure they are able to access and view everything. So these days, Chrome is my browser of choice.

After taking the Google Analytics course, it was a nice refresher on how this tool functions. I’ve spent some time with GA but it was so brief I felt like I was a beginner all over again. I’m hoping to take the advanced course as well. But for now, I have my schnazzy certificate to share with the world:

Megan Gray GA Beginners Course

adwords-logoWhile watching both Parts I & II of Download: The History of the Internet, I found it interesting  how the browser wars started but also how Google was this silent force rising in the background. Google came into the picture and changed up the playing field by rising to web dominance as the host said, with just one click. Beating out Microsoft’s many iterations of search and browsers. And eventually making Yahoo! a memory of what search used to be. Google makes money through so many different outlets but most importantly through AdWords and AdSense. Just like other platforms, advertising campaigns drive this web conglomerate forward. Interestingly enough, as I was looking something up for this blog post, an AdSense popped up on a blog featuring my company (because I had done a search on webcast providers earlier). adsenseSteven Levy mentioned in How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web, the intuition of search on Google is incredible. I butcher the English language when I am typing a search on my phone and somehow end up pressing all the buttons but Google knows exactly what I was trying to say and usually pulls up what I am looking for. My recent search: where was Tom Petty born came out as where wa stom oetry bown. In case you are wondering, Gainesville, Florida

As we start to think more about search and the value of not only being top of mind but also top of the search, Search Engine Optimization becomes an even more interesting area of study. Companies pay a lot of money and focus a lot of resources on having a strong SEO. What is interesting and noted in the How Search Works video is that Google picks out and places the most relevant search items at the top of your search. Primarily based not only on the frequency of your search words within the website but also how many other websites that link to it. You want to have a buzz around the internet so people can find you.

My husband is the lead bartender for a new wedding cocktail business called Something Old Fashioned. He’s been helping a friend of his design the cocktail menu and yesterday the website launched, so if you were to Google: Something Old Fashioned, your search would look like this:


Nothing points to their website within the first few pages because it is brand new. Now to get better traction and recognition in web search for a startup like Something Old Fashioned, efforts should be placed around partnering with other wedding vendors including bloggers and social media along with getting information out on top wedding sites like The Knot or Wedding Wire to help build up their SEO and create a presence within the Austin wedding planning community. As the business starts to grow, reviews are written and people start talking which will lead to S-O-F becoming more recognizable in search. Or at least Google will understand what my fat thumbs are trying to type into the search bar on my phone.