Weekly output: “TV Everywhere,” changing journalism, ad retargeting

All of the PR pitches for Mobile World Congress exhibits and events should have tipped me off, but it only really hit me this weekend that in two weeks, I’ll be in Barcelona for that show. Which, considering the number of things I’d like to have finished before then, is not entirely convenient.

Yahoo TV Everywhere post2/4/2014: ‘TV Everywhere’ Takes a Trip to Sochi, but Some Viewers Can’t Tag Along, Yahoo Tech

The launch of NBC’s expanded online coverage of the Winter Olympics gave me an opportunity to critique its practice of limiting Internet viewership to people who can authenticate their status as paying TV subscribers. What I didn’t realize at the time I wrote this: That NBC affiliate WRC’s over-the-air signal, once one of the strongest DTV broadcasts in the D.C. area, would be pretty much unwatchable this weekend. I’d like to know what changed there.

2/4/2014: media panel, PR Newswire

With Amy Webb and Edwin Warfield, I talked about the changing nature of journalism and whether I care for some current PR and social-media practices at a Baltimore conference for PR Newswire staffers. (I’m sure our discussion had a less generic title, but I forgot to write it down, and PR Newswire’s blog hasn’t posted the promised recap yet PR Newswire’s blog post, added Feb. 24th, doesn’t cite one either.)

2/9/2014: How does ad ‘retargeting’ work?, USA Today

I’d been thinking of doing an explainer about this increasingly common advertising strategy–where one site shows an ad for something you were viewing on another site minutes earlier–and then a friend’s Facebook comment gave me an excuse to write it.

On Sulia, I offered my first impressions of Facebook’s Paper app, kvetched about a security-certificate bug in OS X that seems to have gone three years without a fix, wondered why it takes so long to answer a call in Google+’s Hangouts app, wrote an insta-review of the Feedly-compatible ReadKit RSS app for OS X, and endorsed a site called CarFreeNearMe.com that plots out real-time info about nearby rail, bus, bikeshare and car-share options.

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Things a freelance writer can be thankful for

Clients who say yes to your pitches–or at least politely say no and explain why they didn’t work for them.

Thanks

Clients who offer you unexpected assignments, preferably near a dollar a word.

Clients you don’t have to invoice twice–better yet, who pay before you can get around to sending an invoice.

Contracts that don’t have work-for-hire or indemnification clauses. (How often does the latter form of legalese save any company from legal trouble?)

That moment when a crafty lede pops into your head, fully formed.

The state of flow in which words seem to fly onto the screen by themselves, and you only need to keep your fingers over the keyboard.

Having your reporting lead you in an unexpected direction, in the process reminding you that this profession should be roughly equal parts learning and teaching.

Catching a stupid error that you were thisclose to sharing with the world.

Discovering that you’ve written a phrase in a headline that Google has never seen before.

Editors who ask good questions that reveal flaws in your argument, or at a minimum don’t edit in mistakes.

Anybody on a copy desk who quickly fixes the mistake you discover after publication or posting.

Readers who appreciate what you do.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Weekly output: ECPA, WCIT, The Daily, search hijacking, router firmware

As that abbreviation-dense title might indicate, I wrote about policy issues more than usual this week.

12/3/2012: ECPA And The High Cost of Tech Short-Sightedness, Disruptive Competition Project

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act basically strips your e-mail of the usual protections against government snooping once it spends more than 180 days on the server. Now that Congress is finally moving to fix that flaw, some 26 years after passing ECPA, I thought it a good time to recap an issue I neglected at the Post–and to put it in the context of the trouble Congress has had future-proofing legislation about technology.

12/4/2012: A World Government For The Internet? Not So Fast, Discovery News

The International Telecommunications Union is having a 193-nation summit in Dubai this month, called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, and some of its participants want to see the ITU get a larger hand in running the Internet. I don’t think that will happen, but other mischief could happen over WCIT’s remaining week.

The Daily DisCo post12/4/2012: The Daily’s Demise: Another Secret Sauce For The News Business Dries Up, Disruptive Competition Project

I’m still irked at how the Post obsessed over the launch of News Corporation’s iPad publication, so of course I was going to write about The Daily shutting down less than two years into the experiment. A lot of other journalists had the same idea, but I hope I took it a little further by comparing the way publishers latched onto the hope of tablet apps with the news business’s other exercises in wishful thinking.

12/9/2012: Tip: If your search goes awry, it might not be your PC, USA Today

The post I cranked out here about my search-hijacking experience got enough attention (thanks for the link, Loop Insight) that I decided to write a less technically-inclined version for USA Today. I threw in a tip gained from my debugging attempts about updating firmware on a WiFi router; I had neglected that chore until I logged into its admin page to look for weird DNS settings and saw it had an update waiting.

Departure

After more than 17 years, I’m leaving the Washington Post.

No, that’s not an easy sentence to write.

The proximate cause is management deciding that the sort of review and analysis of technology that I’ve been doing for most of those 17 years is no longer part of the Post’s core mission. As I understand it, the paper places a high priority on covering Washington the city (as in, local news and sports) and Washington the story (politics), but other topics may not be assured of column inches or server space.

As a journalist in a newsroom, you own the quality of your work but not your spot in the paper or on the Web site. Beat, column and blog assignments change. Sometimes your editors offer you another position–my colleague Patricia Sullivan arrived here to edit technology coverage but moved on to become a talented obituary writer. And sometimes they offer you an exit.

I could try to expand on the reasoning behind the paper’s decision, but I’ve never pretended to be a spokesman for management and won’t start now. Trust me on this, though: My critiques of the Post–such as those of its iPhone and iPad apps or its advertising policies–had zero bearing on my departure.

Instead, let me explain why this isn’t a bad time for me to log out and investigate the next thing, and why I’ve been pondering that move for a while.

First, in two words, I’m exhausted. I wrote more than 2,000 words on Monday alone, and I’ve easily exceeded that figure on many days over the last few years. My longest time off since starting here in 1993 was three weeks of paternity leave last year, which you should recognize as being a long way from vacation. The newsroom’s new editing system, as noted by our ombudsman in late March, has only compounded the fatigue factor.

Second, there’s this life outside the office that I’d like to reacquaint myself with, however briefly. As I write this, my daughter is about ready to crawl even as our house remains un-babyproofed. Spring is arriving and I have a (small) lawn and garden ready for my attention. The kitchen has a stack of recipes overdue for me to try, while the rest of the house hides a long list of deferred-maintenance chores. I won’t mind stepping off the treadmill for a bit to focus on things that don’t involve gigabytes, kilobits or megapixels.

Third, the journalism market is seeing some changes. The Post’s union kept some eminently fair severance provisions in our contract, and they should give me time to consider opportunities that didn’t exist a year or two ago.

In the meantime, I’ll use this space to write about my exit and my next steps. My Post e-mail address should work through the end of the month, and you can also reach me at rob@robpegoraro.com.

Thanks for reading. See you on the other side of my next byline…

- R