ROI 120 Roundup: Learning the Media

My roommate and I slept right through the alarm and woke up just in time to realize that we had missed out on the lavish morning food offerings. Like all Jewish events, this one revolves around food and endless talking.

roi 120 conference 2009New Media Track Session Number 2 started at 10 A.M. There would be a total of 4 track sessions which allowed the members of one track to sit with the track leader and talk about the issues facing their project development and general ideas, strategy and philosophy. Even though I chose the New Media track, I have been wondering whether I should have chosen Arts instead — for, after all, I am a very misunderstood writer and performance artist. So what, I happen to have a successful blog? Everyone has a blog these days.

Today we discussed new technology and the changing face of the web, fascinating conversation really. We started by watching a video on YouTube video of an internet prediction from 1968 which featured a woman shopping for her outfits while her husband paid for them in the next room. It wasn’t too far off. We then watched the rather chilling Epic 2015, a YouTube video about Google’s takeover of the world. Google buys the New York Times, MSN fails, we are all one sharing community — scary stuff, if you ask me.

We then discussed citizen journalism and what will happen to paid content if everything was available for free. Would we have micro-payments like iTunes? Or would everyone just become one big social networking and information bubble? Customized search engines — someone mentioned that you may even be able to upload your own news into Google and get paid based on popularity. But what does this say for trained and well-thought-out journalistic pieces? As a blogger, it’s all about creating good content. The more content that gets produced, the more is out there, both good and bad. Sifting through it becomes harder, but once you’ve found it — it becomes a sought-after gem.

Mobile media was also a big part of the discussion, since many folks in third-world nations have access to the web on cell phones they have skipped from nothing and gone to mobile media. They are uploading content via cell phone and this creates a whole new arena of web user generated content. Attention spans are shortening as a result of mobile technology and the ability to connect anywhere has technology heading to new areas never thought of before. One person from Israel mentioned that there is a company called “Ways” that has developed an iPhone application that has created a social community of Israeli drivers — I wonder if they are as crazy with their iPhones as they are with their cars — that communicates on the road. Traffic warnings, routes and danger zones are all available at any location. The iPhone was just made legal in Israel, but there are already some 80,000 Israelis with iPhones. Will the computer become obsolete when everyone has an iPhone?

Some folks made mention of TV when it came out — how everyone went nuts over TV, but after a while it was merely a background appliance. Will Internet and new media be the same? I doubt it; it seems that everyone is connected all the time. One look at Twitter can tell anyone that. As for me, I am against being connected all the time, for I value the good old fashioned computer and phone-less conversation.

Lunch once again was an amazing spread of meats, chicken, fish and loads of really nice-looking salads. I was feeling a bit out of it so I held off on going too heavy. At lunch I sat with a girl of Russian descent who made aliyah this year and was trying to teach Hebrew to her fellow Russian Olim through literature or book clubs, very interesting, albeit tough, because the true meaning of poetry and literature is lost upon the language barrier, but good for her.

After lunch we had our first round of professional workshops, given by experts in their field. Digital technology, pitching your story to the media, and blogging were some of the workshops being offered. I chose the workshop on pitching your story, which I have tried to do unsuccessfully many times. The class was being given by two journalists and one guy who managed a company that trains people in the Israeli government to deal with the press. These three people were Mark Bargman, the managing director of Headline Media, Jonathan Elkins, a reporter who has worked with CNN, and Daphne Almog, who has worked with ABC and CNN around the world.

We started by breaking into groups of two and pitching each other in less then 30 seconds. This was called an elevator pitch, assuming that you would have enough time that an elevator ride takes — should you happen to meet someone of importance to your project in an elevator. The person I pitched was Shirlee Harel, who works for Save a Child’s Heart, an agency in Tel Aviv that performs surgery on underprivileged children from the Palestinian Authority, Africa, Jordan and Iraq that needed heart surgery.

They have saved over 2100 children so far. I was a bit nervous — I may have been biased, because I find it troubling when Jewish organizations exist that have the ability to help Jews but specifically don’t help them. I asked her if she provided surgery for poor Jewish children as well and she said, “No, we don’t help Jews” — I guess that may have been hard to swallow for me. But her story was newsworthy because of the mere fact of Israeli doctors helping out Palestinian children.

By far the best pitch was given by Michelle Rojas. She works for the non-profit Stand With Us, an organization for Israel advocacy and education. She was exciting, and a delight to hear pitch and later on when we were part of the same group I could see the brilliance.

We were critiqued on our ability to excite or seem impassioned about what we were saying. I think some of the Israelis had trouble with the language and choked up a bit. We then talked about pitches to journalists. Never call a journalist in the afternoon, 10am-12pm is best. And you must really catch their attention, because they are always doing something while they are on the phone. Call first, and then email to follow up, and always leave a message. Be concise and get to the point, don’t let them cut you off and when asked questions you don’t want to answer just bridge to another subject and veer them to your issues at hand.

Another exercise included writing our own pitch about a story for any form of media we chose. We got to pitch about ROI and decided that instead of just talking about ROI as a whole we would bring a more personal level to the story by mentioning one of the people in our group as the small piece in a bigger puzzle. Dorit Maya-Gur is the creator of the Falafel Man comic book series, which aims to teach love of the land of Israel through comic books. We talked about Dorit, and then tried to bring it together by telling a short pitch of what ROI was trying to do as a whole. We had a written pitch and a spoken pitch. Then one member of each group left the room with a cell phone and called one of the reporters cell phones set to speaker, they would act as normal journalists do when they receive random phone calls — questions like “Why would I be interested in this?†to “This sounds like everything done in the past.” were spoken to cool and confident pitch makers.

We then had mock interviews in front of a camera with Daphne. She taught about leaning in towards the interviewer, smiling and body movements, as well as getting straight to the point and having a good soundbite. Most of the time, only 15 seconds of an interview is used in the broadcast, so you have to get your point across quickly.

At this point I was falling asleep again. I am not into running on empty and caffeine, I decided I would skip the night activity which was supposed to be a free night in Tel Aviv, I was going to hit up Bar Ilan University to hang out with some friends, but turned into another late night party with an open mic at some bar. I really wasn’t in the mood to stay up late, and I needed rest.

That’s another complaint I have about ROI. They put us up in this beautiful hotel, yet there is no time to enjoy the hotel or the area. The conference is amazing so far, but I feel like there is no stop and breathe session unless you want to do yoga at 7 in the morning. I wish I could just sit back in the jacuzzi, take a nighttime stroll around Ramat Gan, or enjoy the HD flatscreen TV in my room. But, since getting here, the largest block of free time we have are random 30-minute breaks. Please ROI, let us have some rest.

Read Frum Satire’s earlier roundups from ROI 120.

Heshy Fried, better known as Frum Satire, is one of 120 participants in the Schusterman Foundation’s initiative ROI 120, a conference of 120 of the top young Jewish minds in the world. In this daily roundup — his second — he’s going to tell us how it is, lay down the law, and let us in on the secrets of the Jews that control the world — or, at least, the Jews of tomorrow who will control the world of tomorrow.

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