The Production Room was founded in 1995 as one of the first full time digital commercial recording facilties on the central coast of California. We started with 4 stereo tracks, 16 mb of ram and a 250 mb hard drive. A lot has happened since then. Today we're focusing on ways to serve clients who are creating web based media content. This includes strategic planning to integrate the benefits of traditional media, web design and IT solutions into new programs produced especially for on-line consumers. Join in the conversation. Throw rocks at glass houses. Share your vision of the future. This is the most progressive time in the media arts since Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's The Future

The Mercury Space Program taught me to count backwards.

The solemn countdown from T Minus 10 to Liftoff taught me that subtraction would launch us toward the future.

This week the future announced its arrival in the headlines I read in the Los Angeles Times and all over the web.

TV Networks in trouble. A cable company announcing a drop in basic subscribers, content being produced exclusively for on-line viewing, Hollywood Studios scrambling for traction, a music survey announcing that Bruce Springsteen had scored a number one release on the charts - by selling just 77,000 copies of his new album - a position that used to command numbers in the millions. And finally, most remarkably, there was NBC Universal and News Corp (FOX) announcing that they were pulling all of their online content from other channels on the web and forming their own video channel called "Hulu". The new channel (when it's available) will offer free video content.

It's the future. The one we were promised back when we were introduced to computers. The one I wrote about last week.

And once again, we will reach the future through subtraction.

No more magnetic tape. No more digital tape, no more Floppies or Zip drives or CD's and no more need for a hundred thousand dollars of outboard recording and transmission gear. Just a bit of software and a laptop. In the larger world, subtraction is a huge problem for TV, Cable, Print News and entertainment companies. But just for a while. Living in the future takes time.

We sent men out of Earth's orbit into deep space with less memory and processing power than I carry with me wherever I go on earth. If they could do it, so can I. The Production Room has been hired by Red Rocket Productions in Santa Barbara to work on a bold new venture. We'll be producing webmedia full time and I'll be one of the chief writers and creative talents for the launch. I'll be subtracting my office space and will be referring audio post production work to my friend and associate, Steve Gordon.

I hope you'll wish us well.

When I learned my arithmetic I always felt more comfortable with addition. NASA taught me that a launch into the unknown requires subtraction.

PS - The global companies are now "Fututre Proofing" (Thanks Robert Tucker) their businesses. It's writing on the wall for main street business to read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Fire Map

Here's a link I picked up from a post on Doc Searls Blog.

This fire map will give you a scale visual of the fires

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fire -

Everbody Say AMEN!

California has IncieWeb working tonight in real time with current fire data and summary info online.

This is as close to real time live data as you can get tonight with a wild fire moving out of control.

Check it out!

California Fire Info

10.22.07 8:47 PM

This is for my fellow Golden Staters who are all over the world tonight and wondering what's going on in this fire emergency. If you've found my blog page I want to help.

Here is a link to the California State Home Page.

TONIGHT: The site server is not working in real time but it contains regional fire info., and will eventually have links to emergency and disaster relief info.

Tune to KNX Radio

For live fire info. from Southern California -


It would be nice if they pulled off the ad they have linked to this feed about now, but wait for it and you'll get a good feed on regional info.

Best wishes to all at this time

California Is On Fire

We're pretty cool about a lot of things in California.

Ordinary Celebs don't impress us. If you're loaded with Money, Fame and Power, we're all like, "whatever dude". One reason we're so cool about that stuff is that all of us who've lived here a while can say, "Remember the Coyote Fire?" or "Remember the Northridge Quake?" It's the stuff we all live through together - no matter where in the world we live - which can literally level the society we share. Trust me, mountains of fire moving at the speed of the wind and the earth trembling underfoot makes mere mortals of us all.

I was thinking about a couple of things I wanted to blog about today. But I had to answer an email from concerned neighbors in Canada. Then as I was getting started to write, the phone rang and a dear friend in New Hampshire needed to know that we were OK. So it finally got through to me what my blog is about today.

California is on fire.

I'm fortunate to be sitting in a place tonight that isn't currently under threat. I can take the time to write to you. Tonight, to the South and East of here there are people watching helplessly as the fire consumes the ridges above them with towers of flame 100 feet high. Fire crews are scrambling to establish defensive perimeters and police units are cruising nice suburban neighborhoods ordering 1 million people to get out - NOW! People watch, wondering when they should leave. Children are in their PJ's, sitting next to boxes of family photos and treasures, wondering when they'll be bundled in to cars to flee - where?. And always, we watch the wind. A shift in the wind means salvation, or total destruction.

(Later)I'm currently listening to KNX in Los Angeles. Damage is extensive - 1800 houses destroyed as of 8:10 PM (Pacific Time) Tues. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned. Weather calls for lows tonight in the 50's - 60's high tomorrow in the 90's. 68,000 homes threatened. 45 injuries - mostly firefighters.

These fires are being fought, but they are in fact largely out of control. It is hot today. Temperatures are ridiculous on the fire lines, and fires generate their own blazing winds.

If you haven't lived it, you just can't know it. I'm sure people who lived through Katrina know what I mean. I was shocked by the pictures - but I didn't live in them.

I've got fire stories to tell. But this fire story doesn't belong to me.

Pray for mercy on the fire crews tonight from all over the west who are putting their lives into a desperate struggle to save the homes of people they don't even know.

Pray that everyone has a chance to get out alive.

It might be hard for you to understand what's happening. Imagine an area larger than some eastern states burning down to dirt. Then imagine how you could help.

We might be hard to impress. But Californians aren't too proud to be grateful when neighbors pitch in to help.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bundle This!

My good friend Dave called me a couple of days ago. After a moment of small talk he told me why he called.

Dave is an announcer at a local NPR affiliate. As you can imagine it's almost genetically against his nature to raise his voice above beautiful, precise and carefully modulated tones.

Dave was mad as hell (in an NPR kind of way) and wanted to know if he had to take it anymore.

The problem Dave outlined was with with our local cable provider.

Seems our local provider had decided to move a few of his favorite channels from basic cable to more expensive service packages. Bundling is a common term for these packages.

After assuring Dave that the best thing to do was cancel his monthly service agreement, I tried to soothe his savage (yet mellow) attitude with the idea that such pricing schemes were doomed in the face of broadband service and selectable on-line content. Happy was I to have such an excellent answer and poor Dave was resigned to pay more or lose his cable.

Did I give him the best answer?

While bundling free online content (like this blog) through free utilities is an easy way to aggregate your own "do it yourself" media menu, pay for play content is a stickier problem. The FCC did a consumer study a few years ago on this very issue. The conclusion? That un-bundling cable service and allowing customers to choose channels would actually add costs and raise the monthly rate to consumers. The report was supported by the cable industry and opposed by Consumers Union.

I'd be happy to dismiss the cable industry from the table and support the Consumers Union but for one fact: itunes.

For just .99 cents you get a song you want from itunes (with use restrictions). The problem? I don't know anybody who likes just one song. If you like hundreds of songs, that's hundreds of dollars in music that you pay for, but don't actually own.

If you have to pay a dollar each for three TV shows you like each day, that's about 90 dollars a month, plus the cost of your broadband service. And who wants to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month for content, just to avoid paying for cable TV?

Especially when there is a better way.

In 1925, BBDO advertising aired it's first hour long radio program sponsored by Atwater Kent radios. This was possible because BBDO had obtained exclusive rights to broadcast Metropolitan Opera stars. A couple of years later and BBDO is the first advertising agency to have it's own radio department.

You know how the rest works. You tune in for free content, in exchange for allowing the sponsor to include their commercial message in the content.

It's simple, it's free, it makes content creation possible because the medium itself has value to sponsors who want to reach the mass market. And it makes the sponsor lots of money.

The cable industry and pay for play is based on an obsolete model. Cable was built because people wanted access to broadcasts they couldn't get over the air. The internet has solved that problem permanently by giving everyone who can connect to it access to selectable, unbundled content from millions of channels all of the time for a single low price.

And as far as monetizing content goes, well, look for the return of the Texaco Star Theater.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Your News Looks Funny

Political cartoons have been around in America since before the founding of the Republic.

Ben Franklin, as owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette, was one of the first and most effective, using his sharp wit to rally the American Colonials (at least the ones who could read) into revolution!

Now comes Dean Opperman, a local resident and former radio personality who is not nearly as old or as credible as Mr. Franklin but he is rallying folks around the absurdity of the world we live in. Dean has created his own series of political cartoons and is posting them at his site.

His breakthrough effort (so far) has been "Vista Sucks" which went viral shortly after being picked up on The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

The gas bags and geek speakers about all things 2.0 are really talking about the ability of online media to incorporate what Dean is doing now. Or next. Or...
I suggest you link to so you don't miss whatever it is.

Dean Opperman is the new artist newspaper 2.0 will call on when they need a political cartoon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Web Is Not Made of Paper

Thanks to Paul Gibler for a link to this page from Editor and Publisher titled: Web Editors Reveal Online Flops or Failures

It's a look at what editors themselves see as challenges in the current webnews format.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Is Newspaper 2.0 still mostly 0.2?

Time for a recap on the state of Santa Barbara's historically establishment newspaper, its evolving status in the county, the announced demise of local print and the lauded arrival of newspaper 2.0 as the new local news media to replace newspapers.

Some of the words most often used by Santa Barbara bloggers to describe the state of the News Press are "ongoing collapse", "continuing meltdown", News Mess, and etc. The total demise of the paper is repeatedly predicted.

News Press owner Wendy McCaw has stirred up the kind of emotion usually reserved for Darth Vader and so the hyperbole flies in both directions. The News Press editorial page is consistent in it's delusions of persecution and bias as Craig Smith reports. If Wendy McCaw announces that she's Jerry Roberts' mother the analogy will be complete. Read this sample of local opinion from Blogabarbara.

For a nice long read through the whole tangled story try this article on Wikipedia

Don't worry, you've got time. The lawyers will be billing hours on all of the related legal cases for years.

At present the conventional local news journals have actually increased the total amount of local news coverage. The Daily Sound and the Independent, even the Daily Nexus have staffed up at the expense of their rival. Some content is not up to the professional standard of the old News Press, but recognition of professional traditions in their established forms seems to be negotiable on a lot of levels these days and that could be key to the whole trouble at the NP.

The blogs continue to function well in the capacity of local news and opinion forums and edhat continues to develop a diverse audience as an aggregater and manager of online content.

Santa Barbara's Newsroom, an online print type site run by former NP staff and supported by the Teamsters Union, has come and gone.

Now we have the next serious run at online local news and innovation: Noozhawk

New technology often arrives in the form of the thing it replaces. So it's not surprising that Noozhawk not only looks like a newspaper but also like the Santa Barbara Independent online. The Noozhawk staff includes former News Pressers including head man Bill MacFayden, former owner of the now departed South Coast Beacon.

I've noticed that online media is populated by managers from old media. This causes problems. Just ask Allen Wastler of CNBC and formerly CNN who is currently being barbecued by the blogging public for his handling of an online poll. You know the kind I mean, like, "Whose Naughtier? Hillary or Brittany?

Newspaper 2.0 might be coming soon, but we really won't see what it looks like until 2.0 managers include video and audio as well as web design and graphic animation fully integrated on their pages.

Since the entire concept of Newspaper 2.0 is being and has been pioneered in Santa Barbara, to some degree because of the shift in the value of our own conventional media, it will be interesting to see if someone around here will make it a reality that others can see and advance.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jerry's Cadavers

Just in time for Halloween!

What happens when a modern day ghoul learns the benefits of web-marketing?
And what happens when you realize the value in owning (or renting) a real corpse?

Check out this clip from!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"And - Look at Eckersley - Shocked to his Toes!"

This blog has been circling around the question of value. Where does it come from? What is it? Who creates it? How do you monetize it? How do we deliver it?

Well since it's October and Fall baseball season, I thought I'd share a baseball analogy that might serve to illustrate this discussion.

Television was the technical medium that showed Los Angeles Dodger hitter Kirk Gibson's game winning homer with two out in the 9th inning against the Oakland A's Ace reliever Dennis Eckersly in 1988. But it was the voice of Vin Scully making the call on NBC TV and the image of a crippled Gibson running the bases and pumping his fist that made it memorable.

So what is the value of a broadcaster and image maker to a baseball franchise? Well, the talent who looked at a devastated star pitcher and said, "And, look at Eckersley - shocked to his toes" is now making 3 million dollars a season. The current Dodger manager, Grady Little, is estimated to make about $650,000.

(My Canadian friends could just as easily tell you where they were when Canada beat the Soviet Union for a gold medal in hockey at the Olympics - and they could tell you at the drop of a touque who made the call on the air.)

It's only a matter of time before the web becomes the medium with that kind of power. It will then be up to talent to create the value - the sounds and sights we remember forever.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The big BIG Monetizing Picture

When I worked in radio I used to hear the same old sorry story every month about how the radio station (read: every station I ever worked for) was losing money. The boss would point out that all the value went out the door in paychecks to talent and admin. staff every two weeks. It pained him to a greater extent than I will explain here in polite company.

Then a funny thing happened. They sold their radio stations based on the market value that a larger company (like Clear Channel) was willing to pay and they walked away with a nice cash payout which more than made up for losing a couple grand a month for a few years. Me and the boys and girls in programing and production? We got zip.

Flash forward to the startup of YouTube and a little seminar I was at today.

Lorrie Thomas is a genius. How do I know? I've seen her speak and I've seen her hourly rate. Her genius is inherent in her confidence and her knowledge of internet marketing. I was inspired by what she said today at the SABER breakfast meeting at the University Club in Santa Barbara. It's what she didn't say that is the subject of this post to you.

Flash back to 2005. YouTube went from a bootstrap startup in February, 2005 to a 1.65 BILLION dollar company in November, 2006. How do we know that this is the value of YouTube? Because that's what Google was willing to pay for it. Did YouTube lose money month to month in the interim? Who cares? They cashed out for huge money in a matter of months.

Flash Forward now to your online presence and the value of your business.

I've spent more than a year interviewing and meeting with clients about their online presence and the value of investing in online media content to build the value of their brand. I've often received applause for laying out the case for online development as a means for increasing the value of an online or local business. The applause is followed by deafening silence.

What's the deal?

The deal is, most companies don't realize the value that webmedia creates for them. They are totally hung up on the question of "monetization", as if it were the same as employee paychecks or the month to month cost of electric and telephone service.

Think about it. The goal of venture capital, small business and entrepreneurs the world over is to generate the perception of value that they can use to cash out for big profit when the time comes.

So how do you create value in your business? Ask YouTube.

And you want to know something else? The available time my company has to sell has just been bought out by a media production company. Why? Because they want to create value that they can sell on the web.


And there's more. The value of online media translates into new fields for those of us who have been involved in traditional media production for these many years. How will we integrate our services to the new new media presence?

We need to prove our value as professional talent and continue to do what we do best. It's going to take a couple more years, but soon enough, the business world will be calling on media professionals to deliver the goods in an increasingly competitive arena.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Technorati Time

Hi there sports fans! And welcome to the future. Or a least a step along the cowpath that leads to it.

Frankly, I feel a bit the guy who has to get out and crank start his Ford in a blizzard. All I want is to get things running. Instead, I'm standing in snow up to my butt turning over an engine with a metal rod.

When is someone going to make this thing as turn key as they say it is?

Technorati Profile

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

If Everybody Is Special, Nobody Is

My double life has flipped back into the land of sunshine, fake boobs and serious mortgage debt. I've once again traded the pastoral for the profane and am in the studio in Santa Barbara, California. (For those who enjoyed my summer notes from the farm, please stand by for a new blog featuring our adventures and photos from Prince Edward Island.)

Over the summer, I worked on media projects coming mostly from our clients in California. In Canada, I'm set up with a voice over booth, recording gear and the same mic I use in Santa Barbara. I was pleased that on several continuing projects I was able to match voice tracks from both studios to the satisfaction of our clients. It was a wonderful demonstration of the flexibility the internet gives us to work where we want and how we want. But...some weird science is happening online and all may not be well in the land of professional talent.

To learn more and join the discussion, please start with this link:

(Summary: The End of Artificial Scarcity - The New York Times? The New Business Model is Here - by Robert Paterson.)

"It is clear, at least to me, that the web destroys any business model based on artificial scarcity. Content will be all but infinite. What will be scarce in a world of limitless content will be people's ability to find what they value and to help them find more meaning when they find it."

I think Mr. Paterson's statement is a clear look at what I think of as the "popular sovereignty" model of the internet, one that is already influencing those of us who provide or use professional services online.

Now listen to this NPR interview with Andrew Keen, author of, "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture".

(Summary: Mr Keen presents an indictment of web 2.0. He explains how he sees the rise of user generated content causing a crisis in professional journalism, professional recorded music, newspapers, radio stations, TV and publishing.)

With those two points of view you can see a long way down the cross roads we're all standing on.

To take a closer look at how these issues of on-line service and technical capability are impacting production from the point of view of the people who read copy for a living, please continue.

Todd Schick is a busy man. I know because he had to jump off of his call from me to take another call for a paying gig. Being a pro and a Canadian, he also had to call me back and apologize. Todd works full time as a voice talent in Toronto, one of North America's busiest media hubs.

Please go to:

(Summary: Todd describes the pluses and minuses of working with Voice 123, an online casting directory of voice talent and demos.)

Now check out this posting from one of the busiest voices in Hollywood, Corey Burton:

(Summary: Corey's post, "The World's Most Tasteless Microphone" sums up his experience in the brave new world of, "one size fits all" solutions in modern digital production.)

And finally, here's my take on these evolving issues. At first glance, Robert Paterson's "Artificial Scarcity" struck me as the kind of airy froth that social optimists are bound to embrace. But on closer look I saw something more concrete in his view. "What will be scarce...will be people's ability to find what they value..."

Oddly, this might explain and support Andrew Keen's premise. Perhaps it's not so much that expertise will cease to be, it's whether or not you can find the expertise you value that is the issue.

If everyone can join the thousands who have listed themselves on Voice123 as professional talent (or some kind of virtual equivalent)then who will spend the time separating the garbage from the recycling? That job used to belong to an experienced producer or a casting director who got paid to evaluate talent. These days the job of casting could just as easily go to a first year production assistant or account executive. No doubt she'll be casting voices on her lunch break.

In any event, I'd like to think that Robert Paterson has it right. If everyone is special, then it's simply a matter of taking time to find the people you need to create the results you want.

If Andrew Keen is correct then perhaps we'll reach the logical conclusion of a society-wide social trend which makes everything acceptable. In Keen's view, If everybody is special, then nobody is.