The Infomercial Comes to Saratoga Springs

By JIM REILLY Features Writer — The Saratogian — January 6th, 1984

One day last summer Steve Rosenbaum was watching a television crew film a segment on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. He noticed a lot of local people crowding around, wandering in front of the camera, hoping to get themselves on television. Two things occurred to him. One is that there is a lot more going on in Saratoga Springs, and probably any other community than you see on television. The other is that people like to see themselves, their friends and their neighbors on the tube. It seemed to him and friend Dave Henahan that if you could get more of a community on television, people would watch it. And somebody would probably be willing to pay for it. The seed was sown for “OurTown Television,” a locally produced cable television show that premieres with a 15-minute segment Jan. 16. It airs at noon and 5:45 p.m. on Jones Intercable’s channel 10. There will be a new show each day, five days a week. “We see it as an opportunity to bring events and people and places within the community onto community video,” Rosenbaum said last week over lunch. “It’s also a chance to bring local sponsors into contact with people in the community.” …

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You may be wondering, why is the internet so bad at getting you information you want and need?

Funny story. Months ago I went shopping for a dishwasher. I bought one. Today, about half of my web browsing is populated with ads for appliances. A digital dishwasher-stalker. I can’t get it to stop.

We’re living in the world of push marketing, as websites now routinely cookie your browsing history and then haunt you with ads and offers. It’s bad. Really bad.

But as it now exists, the brand or company with the most cash to burn is going to jam its often-irrelevant information into your increasingly overwhelmed feed. …

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We’re facing a staggering increase in the number of digital impressions that overwhelm our screens. Yet, even as the volume has increased, the depth and variety of information has narrowed. The problem is growing, and it can be traced back to three critical trends:

Breaking news. Every day, some piece of news “breaks” and then our devices are flooded with alerts, emails, texts. Often more than 10 different services all determine you need to be alerted to this bit of news.

A famous celebrity dies. The Supreme Court rules on something significant. Donald Trump sends out a nasty tweet. …

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There’s nothing unusual about Donald Trump taking credit for things he didn’t do and blaming others for his mistakes. That’s pretty much every day in the Trump White House.

But on Nov. 20, everyone in the tech industry was caught off guard.

Standing on the factory floor in Austin, Texas, Trump proudly proclaimed “For me, this is a very special day,” as he took credit for the opening of the Apple Computer plant in Austin.

There was only one problem: The plant opened six years ago, during the Obama Administration.

Still, Tim Cook, who Trump has from time to time called Tim Apple, decided to let Trump have his misguided moment in the spotlight. Instead of correcting the record, Cook said, “I’m grateful for their support in pulling today off and getting us to this far. …

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So, are you enjoying a ton more TV these days? I hope so — because you’re going to be paying more for it, and soon.

Television was for many years paid for by advertising. This meant that TV was “free” -but you had to tolerate the endless interruptions of commercials aimed to turn your attention into commerce.

Today, TV is a paid offering, and the balkanization of programming means that you can’t expect to pay for one service.

Let’s take a look at one family’s TV budget. I’ll use mine as an example.

First, broadband access and WiFi, because lots of TV comes over the broadband pipe. I’ve got a good deal with Spectrum, with unlimited broadband for $60 a month. On top of that, we use the Cloud TV service to get basic cable, and Cloud DVR to be able to record and pause shows. So all in all Spectrum is $100 a month / $1,200 a year. …

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I’ve been a documentary filmmaker for most of my career.

I’ve made films about militia movements, great presidential moments, 9/11 and the days thereafter, and life on the campaign trail with John Kerry. And I’ve been a passionate and active member of the documentary community, serving as a trustee for the International Documentary Association and as one of the founding members of Producers Guild East.

But perhaps more importantly, I’ve been able to work with and spend time with some of the most extraordinary documentary filmmakers of our time: Al Maysles, D.A. …

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Television is far and away the most impactful way to tell stories about weather.

If you walk out your front door, you know if it’s raining, or cold, or if there’s a hurricane or a flood. But for most, extreme weather is something that seems to be happening somewhere else.

And yet stories about extreme weather, along with dramatic video of communities underwater or ravaged by tornadoes and hurricanes, are increasingly leading the newscasts of both local and national TV news.

Despite the increased coverage, or maybe because of it, viewers are finding themselves facing stories that often seem hard to place in context. …

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Last week, I stood in front of seven extraordinary startup teams. They were passionate, driven, and enthusiastic about the road ahead for their new business. I recognized the look in their eyes and wondered how their experience would differ from mine.

The startup accelerator space didn’t exist when I started my first company.

According to Hackernoon and data from the International Business Innovation Association, there are now roughly “7,000 business incubators and accelerators. More than 90 percent of them are nonprofit and focused on incubator programs for community economic development.”

So, with 7,000 choices around the world, the accelerator space is frothy but confusing. What makes a program work? …

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Take a look at this number: 230. Do you know what it means? If not, today is a good day to learn about it, because the future of the internet as we know it may be riding on the preservation or renovation of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Section 230 is what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls “one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet.”

Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” …

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Last week it was reported that the supermarket chain Fairway would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The news seemed to be inevitable. The chain saw its stock hit new lows, from $2.16 per share in May 2015 down to almost 30 cents. It lost $300 million during the first half of the past 10 years — and the grocery business was hardly getting easier in the last five years.

I was, of course, sorry to see Fairway go, but then I began to think of just how it would impact my food shopping.

Let me start by telling you about my supermarket choices — and then, a story of how one of them let me down. …


Steve Rosenbaum

Managing Director: NYC Media Lab |Author |Curator }Technologist.

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