My New Year's Resolution: Binge Less On The Digital Junk Food Of Social Media And Smartphones

In just a few short weeks 2018 will be history and a new year will be upon us. Many of us create New Year’s resolutions that we’re all good at keeping until about February at the most.

For the past few weeks, the amount of time I use technology from my iPhone to checking in daily on social media has been on my mind. If we all were to be honest with ourselves, we all spend too much time on our phones on a daily basis.

None of us need to check Facebook or scroll Instagram multiple times per day or in some cases, per hour. Our feeds on the average day don’t change that much between the time we log on and then log on again later that day, hour or minute.

We all could use less time on social media.

In 2019, I have decided to make a real effort to reduce my screen time for multiple reasons, and I am inviting and encouraging you to join me.

One of the main reasons I plan to reduce my online time is because social media is a time waster. Have you ever thought about how much more productive you’d be at work if you put the phone away and concentrated on your to-do list at work? Odds are you could probably go home earlier a lot of days if you would just focus and not check Facebook at the top and bottom of every hour.

Another reason I plan to put the phone away is that I want better health. A quick Google search will show there is increasing evidence from study after study that screen time is bad for your health both mentally and physically.

A recent study reported social media could increase anxiety in users. In addition, the screen is bad on your eyes and your neck as you bend it down all day long looking at the screen, a condition commonly known as “Tech Neck.”

Of course, technology is not all bad and a negative in our lives. There is no doubt smartphones have improved our lives, saved us a lot of time on daily tasks, have created thousands of new jobs for Americans and is a plus for our economy. 

However, it’s like junk food. You know it’s bad for you, but you consume it anyways because once in a while is ok, as long as it doesn’t become a daily habit. For all of us, if we're honest, social media and our smartphones are the digital junk food we all need to use in moderation.

So in 2019, before you decide to “binge” on Netflix, maybe consider more healthy entertainment options like reading a book or taking a walk. It’ll do you a lot of good.

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Dr. Whittle is taking off for Christmas and the New Year’s holiday. Next new column will be available January 7, 2019.

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Posted on December 16, 2018 .
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CNN Should Rebrand HLN (Headline News) As A Conservative Competitor To Fox News

CNN recently announced they plan to no longer produce live news programming on sister network HLN, except for Robin Meade’s morning show and a few hours after her show goes off. The rest of the day will consist of taped programming.

The reason for the change from live news to taped programming?

Trump.

The “Cable news landscape is dominated by politics,” said HLN head Ken Jautz. He further explained to his staff that due to HLN’s focus on non-political stories, the network really could not compete in this current news and political environment.

While he did not say Trump specifically, at this point, isn’t the word politics just interchangeable with Trump’s name?

CNN is missing a real business opportunity by not embracing politics on HLN, specifically conservative Republican Trump politics.

If you like Trump or vote Republican, you watch Fox News. If you hate Trump, you can watch either MSNBC or CNN and get your daily fill of anti-Trump programming. One reason Fox News dominates both Trump hating networks in the ratings is that MSNBC and CNN split the liberal viewership.

I believe CNN’s parent company Turner Broadcasting is missing a big league ratings opportunity by not providing content for the MAGA viewer.

There is no way CNN would ever hire a pro-Trump host for a primetime slot. Their viewers would revolt.

However, HLN is a separate channel, and the past few years it’s really struggled to find its own identity. CNN should rebrand it as a Fox News competitor.

If HLN became Fox News-lite with a primetime line up of respected conservative commentators and reporters, it would give Fox News competition and would peel away viewers from the nation’s leading cable news channel. However, this would not happen overnight. It would be a long-term project because it would take years to establish trust among conservative viewers, but hiring someone like Ben Shapiro, for example, would go a long way in establishing trust.

Not only would this move provide CNN with millions more in revenue, it would also open the door for more voices and would make cable news overall stronger as viewers would have more options for conservative commentary.

Competition makes everyone better, stronger and pushes them to create better products. More competition in cable news would be a good thing for the viewer at home.

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Background Material:

https://www.mediaite.com/tv/exclusive-hln-axing-most-live-shows-including-carol-costello-and-ashleigh-banfield/

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Will The XFL 2.0 Be The First Sports League Built For The 21st Century?

WWE CEO Vince McMahon announced in January his plans to bring back the XFL that lasted only one season in 2001. The XFL held a press conference last Wednesday to reveal the eight cities that will host XFL teams when the league kicks off in 2020.

While the original XFL flopped due to lousy football on the field and a circus-like atmosphere off the field, the league was innovated on the media and technology front. 

Some of the TV coverage innovations the XFL pioneered the NFL adopted including the “sky cam” and mic’ed players during the game.

With all the technology that is available now that no one could even imagine in 2001 during the XFL’s first and only season, the new league has probably the best opportunity of any sports league currently in operation to create a league that is built for the 21st century.

Unlike the NFL, the XFL does not have to worry about potentially offending TV partners that pay billions of dollars for TV rights by signing contracts with online streaming services in addition to TV. Airing Thursday night games on Amazon in addition to Fox probably does not make Fox extremely happy that they have to share their coverage with Amazon.

The XFL has no TV or online partners yet. The league can structure their media rights any way they want to. Look for innovation when it comes to media rights deals with the XFL. The field is wide-open for them to sign contracts with any traditional or digital media outlet. Since the league is new, traditional TV partners will be more understanding if they sign online rights in addition to a broadcast or cable TV deal.

Or, the league could go digital only and bypass traditional TV all together. McMahon stated in his XFL revival announcement that TV ratings would not be the only factor that determines if the XFL is a success because the media world has changed and TV ratings are not as important now as in 2001.

He already owns the digital/OTT WWE Network, which would be the logical choice to stream XFL games online. However, if he goes with his own streaming service, he should open the games up to all for free because there’s not going to be enough fans willing to pay to watch the new league. Amazon and YouTube are always great options as well. YouTube especially if he wants to reach the millennial crowd.

Another digital option is to stream all the games for free on the XFL app the league is creating. In addition to streaming games on the XFL app, the league could provide fan experiences and access to players that no other league can on the mobile app. Unlike the NFL, the league won’t have a players union and they’ll be no multi-million dollar contracts that restrict what players can and cannot do, so they can really be innovated in this area as well.

During live broadcasts of games, the XFL can experiment with technology that will make the fan experience even better by connecting what is happening on the field with the conversations occurring online on their app and social media. During XFL 1.0 there was no such thing as social media. Now that Facebook and Twitter exist, these social networks can be integrated into the game experience in real-time to make fans feel closer to the action.

The original XFL was a failure, but this time around McMahon seems to be doing everything right and taking his time to make sure he has the league more planned out than he did with the original version.

If XFL 2.0 is anything like the first from a media and technology standpoint, look for real innovation that will help create a unique fan experience that might just be adopted by rivals including the NFL.

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How To Fix Facebook Before Users "Unfriend" Zuckerberg's Creation En Masse

Facebook is a mess right now.

The Mark Zuckerberg social giant is currently in the middle of multiple controversies that range from top executives leaving the company, to privacy concerns among a multitude of users, to talks of investigations into antitrust violations from Capitol Hill.

It seems the company is getting it from all sides and that many are wanting to “unfriend” them.

From a user standpoint, fixing Facebook isn’t as complicated as it may seem.

In fact, it’s a very simple solution.

Facebook users are becoming increasingly concerned with what personal data the company is obtaining and for what purposes they are using their data.

If Facebook wants to calm user’s fears, the social network should give users greater control over how their data is used. This would include providing more controls over how their data is used for advertising purposes and provide more opt-in and opt-out policies for consumers that would allow them to decide how their data is used.

Another move the company should make is to offer paid subscription options that provide users with an ad-free experience and also allows no data collection whatsoever by the social site. In addition, with a higher tier subscription plan, the site could offer a more encrypted experience for users to help protect their data better.

Not only would subscription tiers be great PR for the company to show they’re concerned about their user’s data, it would also help make up for loss revenue from their declining advertising business.

A report on Fast Company reports consumption time on Facebook was down from 16.5% in September 2017 to 14.3% in September of this year. The less people log onto Facebook, the less time they are seeing display ads resulting in a decline in revenue. However, the site is still second to only Google in digital consumption, so it’s not time to panic yet if you’re a Facebook investor. The company is still making billions.

To help stop accusations of political bias, Zuckerberg should show goodwill by creating a board that includes leaders from both the right and the left that meets to help discuss and put into practice policies that make sure all voices are heard fairly on the platform.

Facebook is a company in crisis on many fronts, but it’s silly to think the tech behemoth will suddenly disappear like MySpace. The company is almost too big to fail at this point and is too ingrained in our daily lives and culture for there to be a mass revolt of users away from the platform.

However, there are changes that the company can and should make in order to turn the ship around before it enters into uncharted tech territories that could eventually sink it because history has proven that even some of the world’s largest corporations can hit a financial iceberg and go down like the Titanic.  

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Here's Where The Government Can Start If They Want To Break Up Silicon Valley's Tech Titans

According to media reports, the Trump White House has drafted an executive order that would open an antitrust investigation into the business practice of some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The investigation would examine whether online platforms have violated antitrust laws and address online platform bias as well. President Trump has Tweeted his concerns about the potential political bias of some of the nation’s largest social platforms that all lean left.

The federal government has a mixed record of success when it comes to breaking up mega-corporations.

The most famous examples of the government successfully breaking up companies include Rockefeller’s dominant Standard Oil and the 1980s breakup of the AT&T/Bell telephone system. 

We are many years, court cases and Trump Tweets away from coming even a 100 miles close to a breakup of any technology or social media company.

However, for the sake of discussion and argument, here is where the federal government could start if they want to breakup some of the biggest tech titans in the world:

1.    Require Facebook to sale Instagram and WhatsApp. According to recent reports, Instagram has over 800 million users and WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion. Facebook has over 2 billion users. That is a lot of access to user’s data for Mark Zuckerberg to have.

2.    Require Google to sale YouTube. The video sharing website reports nearly 1.8 billion users each month, almost matching Facebook’s 2 billion users.

3.    Spinoff Amazon into multiple smaller companies. Possible spinoffs: Twitch.TV, Whole Foods Market, Zappos, and the list could go on.

Of all the tech companies, Twitter is in the best position to not be broken up because the company is smaller than their bigger rivals and the company has not invested as heavily into acquiring other companies. If you want to include Apple on the list, you could require the spinoff of Apple Music or not allow the company to produce original content, but only offer music and TV shows on their apps from third-party producers. 

As I said before, we are years away from any potential breakup even becoming a possible reality, but there is no doubt that the tech titans have more influence and control over our lives than prior oligopolies could even imagine.

Instead of antitrust lawsuits and breakups, a quicker and simpler solution may be to pass more regulation that protects user’s privacy and governs more how these firms operate.   

Either way, the days of Silicon Valley having a blank check (or unlimited Bitcoin for all of the tech-minded readers) to do what they want is quickly coming to a close. 

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