I built up quite a collection of stories I wanted to pass on. I don’t have time to write longer thoughts about each one but also didn’t want to dismiss too many of them with just a one-liner. So I present to you an incredibly awkward collection of stories from the last week or so.

BusinessWeek has a story about how advertising has, and continues to, become over-shadowed by conversations between brands and their customers. It’s nothing you won’t read on any of a dozen new media marketing blogs, but it is interesting to note that this concept has now made it from those blogs and into BusinessWeek. That’s both a good thing, since it might get some people thinking, and a bad thing, since it will likely get other people thinking.

Rex Hammock and introduced my new favorite buzzword: Mediacasting. Rex is using that term as a catch-all for the concept, which is familiar to most in this field, that it’s message dissemination and not page views that matter the most.

Much like beer, tech gadgets are no longer something you buy but something you rent. At least that’s the premise being floated by Saul Hansell at the New York Times. He points out that gadgets have a much shorter life span before they’re obsolete, either truly or simply in the eyes of the beholder. Not only that, but so many gadgets require the purchase of some additional service plan that it’s hard to assign any real value to that hardware you’re holding when without that accompanying service plan it’s more or less useless.

Weight Watchers has tapped a popular video blogger to produce entries that will appear on the WW MySpace page chronicling her weight loss. This is sort of the extreme definition of “enlisting bloggers” as a media strategy since it tasks the creator with producing content specifically for use in a promotional campaign. That takes the creator outside their community to a great extent and, I feel, means the loss of a great deal of credibility. There are better, less disruptive ways to get this done.

The New York Times seems to be covering the expansion of democratized publishing lately, at least in the handful of cases documented by Read/Write Web. More than that, the NYT appears to be covering things like bloggers who cover war zones and Twitter as campaign tool in a fair way. It’s much better than others, and there are plenty, who write about platforms and services in a dismissive manner, setting a nose-in-the-air tone that then rubs off on the reader.

I agree with Peter at Silicon Alley Insider that Wal-Mart’s dropping of thousands of magazines from their shelves is a disaster. The store made the move to free up space and drop titles that weren’t selling anyway, so a number of big-name prestige pubs that may not be attractive to Wal-Mart’s customer base took major hits.

Not sure if I’m putting the cart before the horse here, but those low sales figures also likely have something to do with a number of those pubs fleshing out their online offerings in the last few months or years. People are reading online instead of making impulse purchases in stores.

And he’s right that if Wal-Mart decides to flex these same muscles with the movie or music industry, those two sectors are in even more trouble than they are currently. They better figure out a sustainable online strategy quick before they find themselves with only a foot and a half of shelf space at the retailer.

If you feel like you’re living in the Groundhog Day universe when someone says this may finally be the year podcast advertising starts to see some big dollars, I’m right there with you. Despite that comes this story about how audiences of decent size are finally making podcasts a viable advertising platform. Even though the writer of the AdAge article includes a passing reference to Long Tail content, the majority of the focus of the story – and of advertisers, I suspect – continues to be shows produces by ESPN and other major media outlets.

Sites offering online reviews of travel destinations and restaurants by actual customers are getting more competitive as they expand. The sites are also becoming more and more popular for the same reason word-of-mouth trumps advertising in swaying someone’s opinion, because we assign a higher level of trust to someone we can identify with than in a glossy ad that probably isn’t representative of the experience. The travel and tourism review industry is also facing the same problem movie reviewers are – obsolescence in the face of consumer reviews.

I’m hard pressed not to think of the “frog in a pan” analogy when I hear that by offering video games for free but charging small amounts for add-ons and enhancements Electronic Arts actually made more money than it did previously. The company tried that in South Korea and will soon do likewise in the U.S. with the release of Battlefield Heroes. Ads placed in the game will also contribute to the revenue stream.

In talking to my six year old, who loves to play Webkinz on the computer, the other day I realized I was probably in Junior High before I had my first computer, a Tandy my parents bought at Radio Shack. I tried to explain to him how computers have evolved over the years into the MacBook Pro I now use but he honestly was looking at me like I was nuts. I bring this up because of the PBS documentary “Growing Up Online” that aired the other night. Watching how both my boys grow up in a world that has never been without not only computers but notebook computers will be one of the more interesting facets of being a parent it seems to me.

I think this gets to the heart of the problem with online video ads: Most of them are not created specifically for the web. Instead they’re usually slightly edited or not changed at all spots that first ran on TV. That’s why ad shops that specialize – or at least offer – services that offer to build new creative for online deployment will have, in the long term, a distinct advantage. They at least recognize online is a new platform that has its own strengths and weaknesses and that using the same 30-second spot you created for TV is just adding to the clutter.

And if you’re curious about what the broadcast networks are doing online, both in terms of programming options and advertising solutions, this research study at MediaPost couldn’t be more up your alley.

Ian Schafer thinks that big business should have figured out social networks by now, a feeling he’s expressing in reaction to a study showing pretty much the opposite. I think he’s right in saying that senior management reporting they’re as hip as their customers while junior staffers say just the opposite means someone’s not being completely honest. You can also read an interview Silicon Alley Insider did with Schafer here.

Head for the hills – it seems like retailers and other marketers are finally waking up to the fact that getting linked to by bloggers can be good for business.

Michael Arrington is reacting poorly to a notion proffered at Davos that government intervention is either needed or desired should “real” journalistic outlets start failing. I couldn’t agree more – this needs to be nipped in the bud whenever anyone suggests it as an alternative. Not only does it go against the notion of the free market where everyone needs to compete, the last thing this country needs is the government – be it this administration or any other – having any sort of control over news outlets.

Just as they appeared to be dead in the wake of the Sun-Times Media Group pulling the plug, three suburban newspapers were saved by another area publisher. The papers had been axed by the Sun Times as part of an overall cost-cutting plan (that included notifying employees they were laid off via phone call) and their operations will be largely folded into Wednesday Journal’s other papers.

Digg has once again honked off its most passionate users, changing their algorithm without notification so that it now takes a lot more diggs to get a story on the front page. That change is also making it harder for those users to bury a story. The problem is that the power wielded by those users is now harder to fully bring to bear. When you have people who are used to being directly influential in a community and then you build barriers between them and their access to that power it can be tremendously upsetting. Worse for Digg is the idea that these people will migrate to another site that more closely resembles what they used to love.

Rex Sorgatz points to the launch of EveryBlock.com, a new site that seeks to be a one-stop-shop for what’s happening in neighborhoods. At launch there’s just Chicago, New York and San Francisco on the site but this could be huge. Surfing around I was really impressed with how it collects assets from elsewhere on the web into location-specific listings for just about anything.

A lot of headlines screamed that the New York Times had invested in Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress blogging software, but the reality is that NYT Co. was just one of many investors that kicked in a collective $29.5 million. The investment made a lot of business sense since, as the story says, About.com, which is owned by the Times Co., uses WordPress, as do the blogs published off of NYTimes.com. The Times seems to have blog content aggregation in mind, bringing in posts from around the web to be displayed alongside relevant stories, which could prove to be a huge boost for the paper.

Speaking of which, Editor & Publisher has a long list of things newspapers need to do online if they’d like to, you know, survive.