October 11, 2007

CLC First Panel: Still Defending The Blogosphere

I've had an interesting day of travel to Reno. My first plane had an O-ring failure in the hydraulic system, so we all had to shuffle over to another plane -- and then that turned into another headache, as US Airways fretted over how to make our connecting flights. They took us off the plane and sent us back on, and then they cancelled our bookings for the connecting flight to Reno, which forced us to rebook our seats.

I did finally arrive in time for my panel assignment, which consisted primarily of defending the blogosphere model for Internet radio. One of the men on the panel, Brian Wilson of Clear Channel Communications, dismissed the notion of citizen broadcasters out of hand, saying that it takes training and experience to turn out a quality broadcast. He expanded that argument to the blogosphere, and while he said kind things about this blog (very kind, actually, and much appreciated), he said that most of the rest of what gets published on the Internet is crap. Brian said that most bloggers wouldn't get their material through one pass at an editor on ethics alone.

With 10 million blogs, it's quite clear that his evaluation is correct, but largely irrelevant. No one really reads the "crap" in large numbers, and most of those blogs die of neglect eventually. The blogs that get read do so for two reasons: quality commentary and good self-promotion. After four years in the blogosphere, the market forces have really rewarded the people who do both, and punished those who do neither. In the blogosphere, there may be 9.9 million worthless blogs -- but that leaves 100,000 that do good work, write well, and both inform and entertain. And that's 100,000 more voices than we had before the Internet allowed everyone their own publishing company.

There's no reason to think that can't happen with Internet radio, either at BlogTalkRadio or with traditional podcasting. The Internet radio quality level is about where blogs were in 2001. The chaff overwhelms the wheat, without a doubt, but that's because the chaff just got started. When people find their voice and their focus, when they learn from their mistakes and get serious about developing themselves as talk show hosts, the content will flow.

It will not overtake broadcast talk radio by any stretch of the imagination. Terrestrial and satellite broadcasts have a mass-market delivery system that is very different from the niche model that the Internet allows. However, that doesn't mean that hosts won't build significant listenerships in the next couple of years, and provide a layer of support to political movements in the same way blogs do. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Internet talk show circuit becomes a "minor league", a pool of self-developed talent that traditional broadcasters might want to develop even further.

I trust the marketplace. I would rather let entrepeneurs apply themselves to these new opportunities and find the 1% who rise to the top through talent, hard work, and successful promotion. That's what BlogTalkRadio allows people to do, and I'm proud to be part of the effort.

UPDATE: I thought I had a bad day of travel -- and then I finally caught up with Instapundit and realized I had a breeze in comparison. Let's hope Glenn gets home safely and quickly.


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Comments (29)

Posted by richard mcenroe | October 11, 2007 8:17 PM

Ummmm... does Wilson OWN a radio?

Posted by The Mad Pigeon | October 11, 2007 8:37 PM

The blogs that get read do so for two reasons: quality commentary and good self-promotion. After four years in the blogosphere, the market forces have really rewarded the people who do both, and punished those who do neither.

But it's still damn frustrating when I'm trying to do both yet still getting nowhere. Bleeding electronic ink on the computer screen day after day for no reward has almost driven me to throw in the towel on several occasions.

But just knowing I have readers who want to read what I say keeps me going.

Posted by Paul | October 11, 2007 8:50 PM

I have been reading Captain's Quarters daily for two years and you prove your own point. This blog has evolved into one of my must-reads, both for the quality of analysis and investigative intelligence, and for the crisp writing.

Captain Ed has great instincts for sniffing out important stories that others are missing (who else paid attention to Canada until Ed did?) and a gift for seeing subtle angles (maybe the "burning" of the SITE scoop on Osama's video wasn't a blunder but a thoughtful maneuver). Always thought-provoking, well-reasoned, decent in tone, and fair to even the most stressed-out of the radical left, this blog does great work and provides an important service to our Nation.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 11, 2007 8:52 PM

Sounds like Wilson from Clear Channel is trying to protect his turf.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Can't seem to find where the Founders said only trained and experienced journalists and broadcasters were to be the only ones who had access to or controlled the media.

As for the "crap"...the professional and trained broadcasters of Air America could not make that venture work out well for their cause nor for their investors. The public is the final filter. If a segment of the public is satisfied with a broadcast effort, or blog effort, they will support it by contributions of either money or participation or both. If it is "crap" it will die. That is how free markets tend to work, and work well.

Posted by Jim C | October 11, 2007 9:00 PM

I don't see what Wilson's beef is. What's wrong with letting the free market work?

Jim C

Posted by viking01 | October 11, 2007 9:11 PM

One of the reasons I usually endure the Southwest Airlines cattle call at the gate is because of how efficiently I've seen them reroute flights to accommodate blizzards, Clinton haircuts and similar inconveniences of flying.

The quality of the internet completely depends on where you go. There's the lunatic asylums / conspiracy enclaves like Democrat Underground / moveon etc. and then there's the news accuracy discussion groups like this one which discuss what's real versus what fakery Dan Rather, Russert, Matthews, etc. has tried to slide past us for this weeks DNC agit-prop.

I think there's great promise for internet radio once long range internet wireless becomes commonplace. It may even provide a broadcast alternative to radio similar to what satellite TV has done to the old alphabet TV networks which had survived by being the only thing available. Not to mention wireless is a possible alternative to circumvent any Communist fairness doctrine ploys to control AM / FM talk radio which may happen along someday. Even if the Democrat brown shirts go so far as to try to prohibit Limbaugh or O'Reilly domestic broadcasts those could go shortwave of foreign origin. Decent shortwave radios are cheap nowadays. It won't take money pit pseudo-management like NPR or PBS does to get the signal out to customers who actually want to tune in.

To halt shortwave would require putting old Soviet shortwave jammers atop the Clintoon Library and we'd be back to frequency hopping like the Radio Free Europe days. Unlikely because the Clintoon clowns would rather embezzle the money than spend it on other people. Anyway, there's likely a big future in long range internet wireless broadcasting where it's simply a matter of time for the technology to become inexpensive enough for a mass market while simultaneously keeping various Communistic or political correctness attempts on the 1st Amendment at bay. Limbaugh and newer voices like Beck, Ingraham, Levin, Schnitt etc. have already established listener markets which are likely to listen in by whatever means technology provides particularly if it is cheap and portable.

Posted by MaaddMaaxx | October 11, 2007 9:29 PM

I am amazed that FOX was foolish enough to let this dimwit (mop jockey?) out of the closet.
these are the same type arguments the newspapers and the big 3 had against the cable news networks prior to Gulf War I.
Now the Clinton News Network is on its knees, M$ network is a noshow, and Fox tries to straddle the middle.
Similar to the dilemma that the music industry faces in the face of digital media revolution The news industry has the choice of adapting or dieing.
Given their tendancy to self destruct rather than adapt (rathergate, fautography) I think I know what the result will be.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | October 11, 2007 9:47 PM

Heck, all Wilson did was restate Sturgeon's Law.

Posted by Ray in Mpls | October 11, 2007 9:51 PM

"...it takes training and experience to turn out a quality broadcast. He expanded that argument to the blogosphere..."

Hay Ed,

Perhaps you can start a Blogcasting School (I just invented a new word, Blogcasting!). I'm serous, there's gold in them there blogs! Since there seems to be so many blogs that need attract readers and so many seem to suffer a lack of quality, I'm sure there would be plenty of applicants for a school that teaches how to excel in the Blogosphere. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the near future, there will be a Blogcasters Association of America which will award bloggers for Excellence in Blogcasting. Radio may not be dead, but then again, nether is the blogosphere.

Posted by Adam Graham | October 11, 2007 10:03 PM

Cap, it was great to meet you today. And you're right. Podcasting also provides a great opportunity for people to gain experience

Posted by John | October 11, 2007 10:07 PM

You beat me to it, PersonFromPorlock!

Posted by Carol Herman | October 11, 2007 10:09 PM

Oh, malarkey! Horse feathers, too.

Don Imus got paid extra money for his nappy remark; and just showed up the empty suits who run the hallwas of broadcasting. But haven't grown new audiences to save their lives.

As to what the Internet does, it does it in spite of the media;

Heck, even where Rush is concerned, he earns every dime and every dollar on his own. And, there were lots of suits who told him to leave their microphones, alone.

Heck, what about all this Spanish language crap? This is something the media midgets are proud of?

As to radio becoming an Internet medium, I'm not so sure we've arrived. I still haven't figured out how to stram anything. And, then Drudge, on Sundays, decided to put his microphone down.

The other problem? I loved Drudge's show. Always made it my business to actually turn my radio on, to tune him in. But the comercials! Too many commercials! There should be more respect to the listening audience!

And, that's why the Internet came into being; drawing people together. The past way possible: WITH THEIR KEYBOARDS.

Anyway, (Drudge has the link up). Clear Channel's letter to Rush is going to be auctioned off on eBay. And, whatever Rush can get for it ... he's gonna give the money to the US Marines.

Maybe, Ed, that would have been worth it; if you could have gotten Brian Wilson to commit to paper. And, then put the strip of paper up for auction?

Otherwise? It would work as toilet paper.

Radio is a lot of background noise to lots of people. When I drive I've overcome the blather by choosing my own tapes. And, CD's. Driving's an excellent listening experience these days.

I think the world ahead will have less "specialists" who market skills ... let's say, like hollywood used to have. Where you had to take art courses, to juggle print ads. And, today? All you need to do is be in the right place, at the right time. With a cell phone that's got battery life.

The ease with which news is traded back and forth, comes from the speed you're getting here.

Once? The speed with which you turned your dial.

I'm reminded, too, that FDR, our president in a wheel chair, found lots of success on the radio. Even down to calling what he was doing "fireside chats." People liked the name. And, they loved the content!

That's just plain magic.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | October 11, 2007 10:14 PM

...[Brian Wilson] said that most of the rest of what gets published on the Internet is crap. Brian said that most bloggers wouldn't get their material through one pass at an editor on ethics alone.

No doubt most of what you read in the blogsphere is crap. But as for Wilson's crack about ethics - is he out of his mind? If the last 50 years have shown us anything, it is the fact that the MSM is now defined by its seemingly endless parade of ethical lapses, factual slip-ups, and outright fraud. Where were all these wise and moral editors that Wilson is talking about? Are they too busy hectoring "right-wing" talk radio and the blogsphere to get their own houses in order?

In the matter of partisan spin, Joseph Goebbels was a no-talent amateur when compared to our self-anointed moral betters at the New York Times, Washington Post, AP, Reuters, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, etc. Since when did the evils of these lessers become the ethical touchstone to which the blogsphere must conform itself?

Posted by viking01 | October 11, 2007 10:27 PM

One reason the major record (music) labels are in deep excrement is because they remain locked into thinking that their perspective on what constitutes talent isn't to blame for the schlock sitting on the CD shelves that nobody's buying.

Contrast that with the surge of independent recording now in Nashville instead of the old west coast studios or that being recorded in home studios for direct or internet sale. People purchase or listen to what they want to hear. The record labels still haven't caught on that their experts often haven't a clue.

Posted by RBMN | October 11, 2007 11:10 PM

The blogosphere is just the library--not the reading list. Everyone has to find the reading list on their own. The reader, the library patron, can seek out any level of quality or any level of specialization they want. I'm sure there's a blog out there that only covers the daily ups-and-downs of the hydraulic pump industry. I'm not going to read it, but I'm glad it's out there. I couldn't tell you how, but I'm sure my life is enriched somehow because there are people out there who live, and breath, and review the hydraulic pump industry.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 11, 2007 11:24 PM


Since you mentioned it:


Posted by John McJunkin | October 11, 2007 11:39 PM

I sat on the panel with Captain Ed today, and I'm so sorry I didn't think to bring up the point that viking01 makes - the record label analogy perfectly nails the elitist notion that the "proletariat" are too stupid to decide for themselves which information outlet to choose or to which rock-n-roll singer to listen. I happen to be a "trained" broadcaster with plenty of radio success under my belt, and it's abundantly clear to me that our new media will make fine companions to terrestrial and satellite broadcast. As always, let's allow the free market to work.

Posted by davidG | October 11, 2007 11:43 PM

Ed if you are reading the comments one REALLY good question to Brian from Clear Channel is does he still have a job today? I have a son working for Clear Channel and the corporation is going through a major RIF and all levels and areas of the corporation are being affected. My son is a program director in a top 20 market programming the #1 station in that market and he believes he will loose his job. If the product they were giving out was so fantastic then the ENTIRE corporation would not be doing a RIF.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 11, 2007 11:47 PM

"...One of the men on the panel, Brian Wilson of Clear Channel Communications, dismissed the notion of citizen broadcasters out of hand, saying that it takes training and experience to turn out a quality broadcast. He expanded that argument to the blogosphere, and while he said kind things about this blog (very kind, actually, and much appreciated), he said that most of the rest of what gets published on the Internet is crap..."

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

Wilson is in the middle of Stage Two. Besides, that "training and experience" hasn't stopped quite a few radio stations (and let's extrapolate that to professional media in general like print reporters/journalists acting like analysts/pundits and MSM talking heads acting like propagandists) from appearing pretty amateurish. Only the fancy graphics, audio, and advertising piggy bank conceal the mountain of poor material they schlepp.

The internet continues to mature and entrepreneurs will test its limits - probably successfully. The old guard should be concerned, and if it doesn't incorporate the new guard, it may well lose to it. Not tomorrow but down the line when more audience (and not the distant managing pinheads) drives the information market and finds a la carte news dissemination its favored product.

Posted by Jazz | October 12, 2007 5:06 AM

It sounds like Brian certainly could have chosen a better way to phrase things (though it doesn't appear Ed is attributing a actual "quote" from him on the subject) but it also seems clear that he's pointing out a few uncomfortable but obvious things. I've been blogging and reading blogs for about four and a half years now, and I still love the concept. And it's certainly "media" in the sense of the definition of the word. However, I doubt that the day will ever come when I'll confuse the blogosphere with journalism. I view it as a way of developing very broad, virtual communities where people can, for the most part, read and share opinions and observations. Some tips can come in for very local events, but for the most part I will still check in with actual news sources to get the final word.

I think we get into dangerous ground when we start confusing this sort of thing with actual journalism. But this doesn't mean that it doesn't occupy a new and very useful niche.

Radio will likely follow the same pattern. The internet radio concept is highly useful, but it's also still rather like blogging with audio. The restriction it faces is the same as with commercial radio... we're in the video age and people like video. Radio news has waned from the giant it was in the 40's to an afterthought for most folks. Doesn't mean that it can't be highly interesting.

But whether it's the written or spoken word, "citizen journalism" suffers from some common problems across the board. Opinion is all too often stated as fact on the largest, most widely read blogs. The bias of the owner is, in nearly every example, on display if only in the "pick and choose" nature of which stories are covered and the almost painfully obvious spin put on the chosen stories. Say what you will about Fox or CBS (depending on whether you have a D or an R after your name) but neither will ever approach the slant of blogs. I see no reason to think that citizen run radio wouldn't follow the same pattern.

Doesn't lessen my enjoyment of either in any way, nor dinimish the usefulness. I'm just saying I wouldn't confuse a blog for Reuters, nor an internet radio show for CNN. :-)

Posted by Howdy | October 12, 2007 6:29 AM

The MSM is either whistling past the graveyard, or they're expecting strong government control of satellite radio, podcasting, and blogs along with the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

Anyone care to give odds?

Posted by Tom Shipley | October 12, 2007 7:59 AM

"Can't seem to find where the Founders said only trained and experienced journalists and broadcasters were to be the only ones who had access to or controlled the media."

I think the beef is that many bloggers have a certain disdain for journalism, don't know much about journalism, and think they can just write about stuff and be a journalist.

Fact is, there's a craft to journalism. It's a devotion. I kind of think of it as cops not wanting citizens to become vigilantes.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 12, 2007 8:32 AM

RE: Tom Shipley (October 12, 2007 7:59 AM)

"I think the beef is that many bloggers have a certain disdain for journalism, don't know much about journalism, and think they can just write about stuff and be a journalist."

I agree to a degree. There's no doubt that much of the blogosphere readership certainly maintains such disdain, particularly on the Right in the U.S. given the bias that is being exposed. It's hard to know when the MSM began it's leftward shift and perhaps it has always existed but is just now being addressed through alternative media. Whatever the case, journalism does not seem to be particularly strict or refined in its adherence to complete objectivity or subject matter. I tend to think it has regressed more recently due to the relative rewards of being a personality in the industry rather than a documentarian. Celebrity overshadows whatever reportage is made since who, what, where, and when are not glamorous. The why seems to be the focus trumping all, and it is there that the schools have ingrained liberal interpretation and bias, IMO. Even if why is middle-of-the-road, the emphasis of who and what is reported likewise introduces subjectivity.

"Fact is, there's a craft to journalism. It's a devotion..."

Maybe once upon a time in an ideal scenario, but I just don't observe such objective analysis. Yes, there's craft to telling a story and devotion to selling it, but the question remains whether the craft is honest and the devotion apolitical. Too often it isn't. Just look at Columbia, for example. It's considered a premier institution (or was, but that perception is changing) for journalism which I find laughable, yet it is churning out "professionals" who traditionally get their seasoning in the MSM. Craft turns to crafty might quickly when one's environment is so one-dimensional. Writing well does not necessarily validate one's integrity.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 12, 2007 9:02 AM


I started out as a journalism major, got drafted and my life took another turn. But back in those days, journalism, as taught by the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, was a craft.

Today it is a media business.

Different models.

And we have suffered because of it.

The media corporate bottom line drives stories; the stories no longer drive the corporation.

When I started out, there was a requirement that one could not get just a journalism degree. One had to dual major, or have a substantive degree in another major, before being awarded a journalism diploma, and the GPA for both had to be high. Somewhere along the line this changed, and now one can get a jounralism degree with no other outside degree or major. We've developed highly paid technical writers who know how to put words to paper [sometimes], but lack, in the majority of cases, the substance behind those words. We now have a generation of news readers not journalists, at least insofar as broadcast and cable media is concerned.

When I started out most of the major good journalists had degrees in economics, history, political science, English, international relations and so forth...and journalism was an adjunct to their primary area of interest. Now we have "journalists" who are reporting on the Iraq War, for example, and have no idea that there is a difference between the position "commander" and the rank "Commander," and have no idea what comprises a brigade, a division or a platoon, and certainly have no understanding of the military operational arts.

Perhaps Brian Wilson of Clear Channel, among other professional journalists/broadcasters/news readers would like to engage us in this problem of lack of depth in the education and experience of journalists today?

Posted by tmi3rd | October 12, 2007 11:58 AM

Wilson's remarks aren't totally without merit, but they overlook a couple of things...

1) I'm a broadcaster, and my degrees are in operatic performance. I learned to put shows together in a small market and learned how to prepare for them by trial and error. My news career is coming to an end in a top-30 market (so I can go be an opera singer again), but I didn't have any pre-professional training in broadcasting.

2) As stated above, Clear Channel has taken quite a beating lately. Combine that with most broadcasting outlets offering podcasts and web-only shows, and there seems to be a serious move to accommodate new media as part of an overall product.

Many local talk radio shows on the non-#1 stations have some content that I would regard as questionable in terms of judgment... but no less so than when I read the rundowns of a typical 30-minute television broadcast. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

Certainly, one doesn't necessarily want to jump into broadcasting cold, but there are people in every market in the country who commit some (to my way of thinking) unforgivable errors daily on the air. Wilson's group is no exception... although I have to say, his advertising sales representatives in the New Orleans and Nashville markets are smokin' hot... rowr!


Posted by viking01 | October 12, 2007 12:54 PM

The disdain many "journalists" nowadays receive extend from the self-anointed attitude many now take and the diversions from facts many now market.

It isn't sufficient for many journalists to say what happened they need to spin it towards their political views. Notice how seldom perspectives of disagreement make it into activist old media reports then compare it with how consistently there's a spoiler somehow conveniently discovered in attendance for reports on events contrary to the old media journalist's (or network's) political views. One of Limbaugh's greatest gifts to broadcasting is his audio "montages" which quickly illustrate a dozen or more so-called reporters / journalists simultaneously parroting the DNC talking points word-for-word. Not merely paraphrasing. Word for word.

Then you've got the obvious pseudo-journalists like George Stuffinenvelopes, Timmy Russert & Chrissy Matthews who were Democrat Party media operatives for politicians before becoming advocates posing as journalists. Those three aren't journalists. Never were. They're party P.R. men pretending and the networks who hired them know it.

Then you've got the full-blown activist journalists like Dan Rather (and Jayson Blair, and Scott Beauchamp) who aren't content with facts... fraudulent documents are their stock in trade. Which brings us back to the red herring that people dislike "journalists." Bull. What people dislike are Democrat shills posing as journalists. The Edward R. Murrows and Ernie Pyles of a more honest "news" era would not recognize what the Lefty networks and newspapers keep trying to pass off as their "journalists" today beyond considering them streetwalkers with pens.

Posted by Looking Glass | October 12, 2007 3:01 PM

Ed Driscoll has a great quote about journalism. "You need a license to cut hair. You don't need anything to be a journalist."

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 13, 2007 7:55 AM

RE: coldwarrior415 (October 12, 2007 9:02 AM)

I appreciate your perspective and agree for the most part; however, I think there's more to it than this, and it's vitally notable:

"The media corporate bottom line drives stories; the stories no longer drive the corporation.

Yes, industry evolution and sophisticated marketing have changed media dynamics, but my complaint is more fundamental than mere economics changing the model. There's an insidious ethical lapse in journalism today which is destroying the institution, an institution we must have adhere to the highest ethical/moral standards if our form of a free democracy awash in First Amendment advocates is to survive. To wit, I recommend you review Hinderaker's (at Powerline) "A Tree Falls in the Forest".

I think it will be interesting to watch which portion of General R. Sanchez's address to the media is emphasized... or covered at all. I don't think we need to go too far out on a limb to predict that the anti-Bush policy in Iraq will be highlighted while his contemporaneous chastisement of "professionals" will be buried. It's the luxury The Deciders™ (h/t to Ace at AceOfSpades) enjoy as gatekeepers to the legacy information conduit. And it is shameful.

Such behavior is not indicative of economic bottom line. It's indicative of disingenuous and unethical bias that if left unchallenged, undermines the institution to the point of irrelevance. Also notable - we fortunately live in an age where such undermining can be stopped by circumventing old media models. Granted, it will require that new media fight for its voice and its consumers defend the threat of censorship we know will come down the pike.

There are powerful forces defending their turf, their lobbies and megaphone in the ear of politicians who determine to great degree what voices we will hear. If this debate were restricted to economics alone, I'd be less concerned since "right and wrong" often survive downturns in financing. However, since this is about ethics and integrity versus propaganda, those principals can be destroyed by institutions that tend to traffic in the latter.

I really cannot recommend Hinderaker's observation enough. What's more, we may get to watch in real time the dishonesty of modern media before the story unfolds. Will Sanchez's rebuke of the media hit the front page, or any page, or will it be swept away, drowned out by "Bush's failure"? Ten years ago, we know with absolute certainty which tale would survive. Today, we still probably know, but there's a chance that the whole truth will be covered in spite of "professionals" at the helm. This is why blogging will survive and why the likes of Captain's Quarters are carrying on in the greatest tradition of the First Amendment with an attendant commentary validating "truth."

Posted by NahnCee | October 14, 2007 7:42 PM

Well isn't social work and socialism one and the same thing? But this sounds like a load of pish-tosh to me. Has anyone ever been fired for signing off on these demanding criteria and then voting for Reagan or leading a life of sex, drugs and rock & roll?

It seems to me that if you *do* find yourself to be in trouble at work, it's more likely because you're a pedophile or a Scott Beauchamps or you've been caught taking bribes from contractors, so it's a moot point whether or not you signed a big "Yes I will" to what a bunch of incompetent social workers and their bureaucratic bosses think you should be.

Speaking of which, where on the food chain of respect given do social workers rank? I'm betting they're right down there near the bottom, one step up from ambulance-chasing lawyers, and even with Congressmen and MSM news anchors.

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