Category Archives: CNN

Why Iran?

More than 20,000 people marched in the streets, blocking roads, waving flags, decrying the corruption that has pushed another quarter million from their homes, with rumors swirling about genocide.

We’re talking, of course, about the Tamil conflict in Sri Lanka.

Tamil? Sri Lanka? Not even on your radar? That’s OK — most Americans don’t follow international politics at all. So you have to wonder why one international tragedy causes nary a ripple in the United States while another, the current Iranian election angst, has affluent Americans turning their Twitter headshots green in solidarity. This statement doesn’t make light of either dispute but simply notes that some messages go wild while others wallow in the back pages of dry newspapers.

Iran is a case study in why some topics go viral

The Iranian elections caught CNN by surprise a week ago when Twitter lit up with complaints the news network was not covering the riots. To be fair to CNN, most Americans usually don’t give a hoot about international politics. Between 60,000 and 100,000 civilians were killed in the Darfur genocide, yet few in the U.S. can name the continent Darfur resides upon.

By comparison, over the past seven days discussions of Iran have escalated in social media; by Saturday, June 20, “Iran” was included in 3 percent of all tweets. The controversy has struck a chord, perhaps because Americans are fresh off an emotional election and are projecting their Obama passions (he’s a savior / he is destroying democracy) onto a very foreign election. Perhaps the thought of anyone gaming an election irritates us, when our own country just had such fervent debates about our next leader (a fresh hope / friend of terrorists). Perhaps U.S. social media users were secretly flattered at the thought of their favorite new tool, Twitter, being used to circumvent draconian censorship (although The New York Times reports Twitter use in Iran was marginal compared to other, less sexy technology such as text messaging).

It’s all a case study in the Gladwell Tipping Point power of context — for any message to go viral, not only must it be resonate and reach network influencers, but the network itself has to be primed and ready. Humans propagate messages best when their communication ecosystem is staged, like dry grass waiting for the spark that causes wildfire.

Our thoughts go out to those struggling to find truth in Iran. The answers are neither simple nor easy. It’s very interesting, though, to find out suddenly that Americans care. For some reason, unlike CNN, our networks were ready.

Photo: From the Flickr collection of Faramarz Hashemi, who is sharing graphic images of the current conflict in Iran.

Iran observers vote #cnnfail

CNN felt the wrath of crowds this weekend when the cable network skimped on news from Iran. Reports popped up elsewhere that Tehran had riots over a potentially corrupt election, yet by late Saturday CNN still had scant coverage.

So Twitter filled up with irate protests followed by the hashtag #cnnfail. “Users of the microblogging service were incredulous at the near total lack of coverage,” wrote Daniel Terdiman in CNET, by “a network that cut its teeth with on-the-spot reporting from the Middle East.”

Was it all hyperbole — hypersensitive Americans overreacting to just another mangled foreign election? Perhaps. But it’s a warning sign for any business that crowds are out there watching, armed with new social media technology, ready to hold you accountable. Today, two days later, is following the Iran protests carefully as the top story.

Image: Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP/Getty Images via

CNN makes today’s inauguration social

CNN hints at the future of broadcast media by joining forces with Facebook today. If you log in to CNN’s live feed of the inauguration via the web, CNN will automatically recognize your Facebook account (if you have one) and post a window to the right allowing you to comment on the events with friends. It’s a simple, brilliant move recognizing the trend of younger demographics to multitask online while watching the broadcast news.

The power of finding and forwarding any video clip

Darryl Ohrt over at Brandflakes notes YouTube has launched a new feature allowing you to link to any point within a video. At first glance, this seems like just a clever new web trick of the week.

But consider the implications: Free-flowing video search will soon become video broadcast, where anyone can forward almost any video moment in history. Sure, there is demand for this. On the consumer side, there is huge pressure for music and video content to move to the free; MTV just launched MTVMusic, a service similar to Hulu with lots of free content. On the journalism side, FoxNews and CNN are this week scouring for stories on Obama and McCain, often resorting to seven-year-old clips to find new “news.” Everyone wants instant recall.

We’re not sure if instant retrieval of every clip is a good idea. Remember that bachelor party? Or the night on the town in college? Or the first letter-to-the-editor you wrote 20 years ago? Now imagine if those instances of youthful indiscretion were captured in video and could be pulled up at a moment’s notice. Kind of makes you feel sorry for anyone running for President.

Rick Sanchez is all over Twitter

Back in the 1970s we watched Harry Reasoner on ABC News and often thought: how cool would it be to send him a letter to be read on air? Now, you can. Twitter and Facebook and social media tools are creating instant messaging feedback loops to mainstream media.

It works … for now. When everyone gets aboard social media, the mass volume may be too much for celebrities in the limelight to follow. For now, try typing @ricksanchez on Twitter. Via Matt Hunsberger.

Hurricane Ike and the joy of dread

We came across a debate on Twitter recently where Amanda Chapel, the faux persona charged with poking fun at social media thought leaders, referred to Søren Kierkegaard‘s existential theories that people hide the meaninglessness of life by drowning themselves in diversions. (In case you miss the Amanda Chapel arguments, she’s a mask, she’s brilliant, she’s caustic, and she thinks the social media craze is overblown — which is right, of course.) So we read up on Existentialism and came to the concept of dread.

Dread. You know, that itching feeling that something bad is about to happen. Existentialists use the common experience of hiking to the edge of a cliff, seeing the abyss and getting a wave of confusion as you ponder your own ability to throw yourself off. This nasty little buzz is the human mind recognizing that nothing is really in control in your life, disaster could happen, and you might even bring it upon yourself.

Newscasters love dread; the weather forecasts are filled with it. In the days before Hurricane Ike slammed Texas, CNN, Fox News and the other broadcast outlets were salivating at the thought that cities could be decimated, Galvestan drowned, ships sunk at sea. “CERTAIN DEATH!” cried the headline at

We’re going to start searching for examples of advertisers who play this same game. It is a powerful emotion, at least as riveting as sex or death or chocolate, and when the wave of dread surges, we want to watch it come, hoping in some secret part of our souls that the worst will happen. If we see it, at least we’ll be in control.

Bill Clinton gives away the ending

The speed with which news now travels, thanks to this internet-thing, is stunning. Here, Bill Clinton is captured on video giving a speech that this is his last day campaigning, before Hillary makes any announcement. Can’t wait until we all have iPhones with video uploads. Good news is tracking and editing all this iReport stuff may make jobs for those poor journalists getting booted out of newsprint.

3 reasons why you are now a national news reporter

1. Katie Couric’s ratings are down and she may depart CBS after the elections.
2. CBS is reportedly in talks to outsource news operations to CNN.
3. CNN, in return, said it will cover the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict to the United States by enlisting regular people to post videos and stories at

Which poses the question: If you will soon be covering God, who is watching you?