Thursday, 26 November 2009

New Publishing/Old Publishing

So i wrote a few of these posts last year, basically to highlight how in niche areas (in most cases advertising/media/marketing related) non-traditional/non-professional content was not just more nimble and dynamic than traditional publishers, but also read by more people.

Last week's announcement that Media Week would no longer publish in print and Revolution would stop altogether reminded me of these. Partly because I'd used them as 'old publishing' examples at some point in the past, but mainly because I read them. The 'old publishing/new publishing' was not entirely fair because it tended to take a US blog like Logic & Emotion or Web Strategy and compare it to a UK magazine with a much lower potential readership (let's pretend that publishing can still be country-specific for a minute: bear with me on this....).

So how about a fairer comparison. UK marketing blogs (or at least those that conveniently display their FeedBurner stats on the site) and UK marketing magazines.

Media Week - 9,824 (Audit Bureau of Circulation 2008-09)
Revolution - 10,002
(Audit Bureau of Circulation 2008-09)

PR Blogger - 4,514 (FeedBurner)
Only Dead Fish - 2,024 (FeedBurner)

So not individually. But on the other hand, the cost of blogging is one of time and commitment, not of industrial production, so there are hundreds of other interesting opinionated and generally awesome blogs covering the same subject without as many readers. On the other hand I'll miss Revolution because it was a great mag. As Clay Shirky has been saying all year,

"you'll miss us when we're gone" isn't a viable business model

However neither it seems is B2B magazine publishing in some sectors. Does't mean that we won't miss them though

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Augmented ID and new viewing screens

Awesome or Scary?
The basic AR tools are already available - Bionic Eye does simple things really well, while Layar has the potential to do a whole lot more if mobile handsets had more memory. Face Recognition is already available on social photo editors (and on iPhoto) as long as you give it something to work from: ie tag some faces and it will recognise them in future. As William Gibson said

"The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed"

But platforms like Android and iPhone are increasingly becoming evenly distributed in the UK and US, and they offer the infrastructure and revenue potential for developers to bring the future to those handsets quickly at low cost. The Augmented ID application in this video doesn't exist yet, but it is being developed by Polar Rose, developers of one of the leading facial recognition phone applications.

I'm not sure whether this is scary or exciting. The prospect of publicly sharing your data as you walk down the street might be one privacy setting too far for some. Initially you'd be suspicious of anyone looking into a handset....

But the handset bit is also looking like it might get left behind soon. I saw Ian Pearson talk about the idea of augmented reality contact lenses about this time last year, and dismissed it as something that may happen in my lifetime but not something to get excited about. Even a professional futurologist like Ian only included them in the 2015-2020 section of his presentation.

A year on and these are in development: according to,

(Image from
Babak A. Parviz, a bionanotechnology expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, has released a report detailing just where the bionic eye (or at least the augmented vision contact lens) technology is at right now, and it’s pretty amazing. Not only is augmented vision possible – prototypes are being tested right now

How long till Augmented ID happens on a head-up display in front of your eyes?

More from Gajitz here and from the BioMedical section of Spectrum IEEE Magazine here
(HT to Katy Lindemann for pointing out the AR contact lens news)

UPDATE: According to Jeremiah Owyang, LinkedIn are planning to integrate facial recognition technology into their apps by 2011.

Using mobile devices, users can quickly hold a device up a cell phone in front of a peer to see their LinkedIn data –without even having a conversation.

Windows 7 was my idea

Couldn't resist this (@scobleizer's idea i think). So Windows 7 is apparently the business. Everything that Vista wasn't. But that OS X was....

Friday, 20 November 2009

The battle for control of the internet

A couple of relatively unrelated news stories caught my eye yesterday. On one hand, Peter Mandelson announced amendments to UK copyright laws that appear to put the onus of illegal download prevention onto ISPs (reluctantly) and lawyers (eagerly). On the other, Google released more detail on what Chrome OS is going to look like when it launches next year.

The signs are that the battle for control of the internet is picking up pace. Copyright owners seem to have persuaded the government that the 20th century is worth saving, and that ISPs are the people to police it for them. Which aside from being a bit like blaming the Department of Transport for every speeding offence, is also something that we should be very worried about. Britain already has an outdated infrastructure for broadband: BT's copper wires will have to be replaced before we can get anywhere near the always-on HD quality entertainment that is possible over cable, and this will take significant investment, either in cabling or in much higher speed wireless for all. All of this costs money (lots of money), which will not be forthcoming if ISPs are having to spend their time trying to police a system of copyright that was effectively written in the dark ages. In a month that both Finland and Spain have made access to broadband a basic right of their citizens, the UK's short-termist approach has the potential to harm the country's knowledge economy for a generation.

All of this is very serious, and I suggest that if you agree then you join The Pirate Party and the Open Rights Group to help protest. However, the idea that the internet should be open access and open source has some pretty powerful support too. Google are a bigger deal than any content owner both in terms of financial muscle and political influence. And Google's big opportunity is more internet access for everyone all the time. This is what Ben Parr at Mashable calls the Google Revenue Equation:

Revenue = Amount of Time on the Web

It's that simple: their ad business is so effective at monetising the internet that they can afford to make everything else free. Email, browsers, mobile OS, storage, video, office software, GPS, mapping, etc. And not just free, but as good as the paid for equivalent. So the launch of their operating system, a replacement for Windows (that will be free, and probably as good as the paid for equivalent) is a big deal. Not just because of the potential to cut the heart out of the Microsoft empire, but also because Chrome OS is open source and fundamentally supports the idea that information wants to be free (because Google know how to manipulate and organise information better than anyone else. Information is what makes people spend time online. Time online = revenue). So although at a personal level we might not trust everything that Google are doing with our data, they are probably the biggest ally that anyone who wants a free and open internet, and is in favour of the UK knowledge economy, can have.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Charging for news

So we are starting to find out a bit more about News International's plans for charging for news online. Rupert Murdoch's interview with Sky News earlier in the week suggested that he hasn't recently looked at the figures for how much traffic his sites receive from Google. As Google frequently point out when the print media criticise them, it only takes a robot.txt command to exclude content: Murdoch apparently intends to finally take them up on this opportunity to opt out.

On a less confrontational note, Times editor James Harding explained a little bit more to the Society of Editors about how this is going to work for his bit of the Murdoch empire. It seems that the plan goes something like this:

Micropayments are too difficult, and let's face it, too different
to newspaper publishing. Newspapers' business model was based on the scarcity of news. So let's try and recreate it by charging for access to everything published in the previous 24 hours.

My words not his, but that is the general gist of it. However, this is apparently going to "rewrite the economics of newspapers" (Personally I think they were rewritten some time ago....)

A lot of the discussions of Murdoch's print business model though forget that behind all the hype there is a solid basis for increasing revenue. For all the talk about rewriting business models, I don't think anyone at the top end of News Int thinks that they are going to increase print sales over the next ten years. They seem to be doing a better job on online ad revenue: the chart below shows that despite all the pressures on ad budgets over 2009, the Times has maintained its revenue online (figures from Nielsen Media Research, so the increase may be partly due to the improvements in online tracking that Nielsen have made this year).

They have also been increasing UK traffic figures according to the latest comScore stats. To the extent that according to the combined Nielsen/comScore figures, to REPLACE their UK ad revenue would require some £0.17 per UK unique user. Obviously every unique user is not going to pay them: a Forrester report published earlier this week had a figure of 20% (of US internet users) who would be interested in paying for newspaper content. So based on an example of 15% of Times users being signing up to this project (still an extremely ambitious target), News Int would only need £1.14 a month to REPLACE ad revenue. Bear in mind that they aren't going to be stopping running banner ads any time soon, and will certainly be charging media buyers a premium to target subscribers based on user data. And that there will also be a substantial chunk of Times inventory that is outside of the paywall, also running ads to a wider audience. But £1.14 doesn't sound that much if you like reading the Times online: most people spend more than that per day on coffee.

This doesn't mean that this is a good idea, or that it will secure the future of News Int's media properties. I've written lots of random stuff about what I think might be, but then of course I'm a random blogger and Rupert Murdoch is a media mogul with a track record of leading the market. I think the point I'm trying to make is that this isn't a great crusade to save paid content, it is more a pretty plausible attempt to create a new revenue stream to cover for the lack of ad advertising 2010-2011. Whatever is going to "save news publishing" is something different (probably something that doesn't start off by treating news as a 'once every 24 hours' concept). It might be, as Conde Nast are eagerly anticipating, something that happens on a new size of Apple branded screen. It will certainly demand the sort of radical innovation that established market leaders often find difficult to embrace. But if it is found, News International need to ensure that they are still a leading publisher of news when it happens.

Monday, 16 November 2009

What people are doing online in real time

I know that this is all over the internet already, so you've probably seen it, but it answers so many 'Why?' questions that I couldn't resist!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Blogging about Blogging

(Or 'how I organise my stuff on the internet)
Okay this might look a bit self-indulgent. Actually it is a bit self-indulgent, so you might want to stop reading now, but there is a reason for it. I like to sign up for pretty much any new sites or services I can find, and I try to have a go at using most of them. Which means that people, particularly at work, tend to ask me which ones to use for different stuff. So I thought I'd write down what I use, so I can just send them a link when they do.

I've sort of run out of space on both iGoogle and Google Reader - I've got 10 tabs on iGoogle split into work and non-work related stuff, so there's not many places to put new feeds other than well down a page. I only use Reader for the 30 or so that I'm really interested in, because I run the Reader feed into Viigo, which downloads them automatically to my phone so that I can read the latest stuff on the Tube when there isn't a mobile signal. Viigo also has the main news, tech and social media sites plugged into it, so I've got BBC, Guardian, Mashable, Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Engadget, etc there as well. Anything worth saving can be sent to Delicious, or worth sharing can be sent to Twitter from the Viigo app.

Actually I do pretty much the same from a computer too - keep an eye on anything interesting on Twitter, and then save it to Delicious if it looks like it might be useful. As well as Tweetdeck groups to split out different types of interesting, I've also got Tweetdeck alerts, and FriendFeed desktop alerts so that if the (much smaller number of) people I'm following on FriendFeed add stuff to Delicious or Slideshare then that will trigger an alert as well. As well as the Digsby alerts for new Gmail, Hotmail or Facebook activity. I used to use Delicious for all bookmarks, but it's increasingly become work-related stuff. Like most internet stuff I do, I've sent the most recent links back to the sidebar on this blog. There are some browser bookmarks - synced between work and home through the lovely XMarks, which also means that I don't ever have to remember passwords either

As explained here, I used to love Last.FM, deleted my account, and came back sheepishly a few months ago. At home I organise music through iTunes like most people, but to find new stuff AND listen to it (not easy through either iTunes or Amazon's recommendations) I use Last.FM's recommendations and Spotify's streaming. Anything played on iTunes, Spotify or Last.FM gets pumped back to my Last.FM profile to help improve the recommendations (and from there to the 'what I'm listening to' widget here).

Through not having done much photography in the last couple of years, my photos are scattered around a few sites - Picassa, Flickr, PhotoBox mainly. I've never got hooked on Flickr, I guess becuase you can't do that much without paying. Since discovering Compfight creative commons image search I'm using more Flickr images in presentations, and feel that I out to put some more stuff up there to give back to the community. But I haven't yet: mostly what I take photos of at the moment is family snaps to post straight to Facebook from my phone so my folks can see them. For online image editing Picassa works better for me than Flickr if you have it installed. Aviary is the best cloud based editor I've found. I could write PLENTY more on iPhone photo apps, but most of it would be paraphrasing Iain Tait.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bionic Eye Augmented Reality

Post up someone's great explanation of how social, mobile and AR are going to combine to make people's lives easier, and 5 minutes later someone shows you an example of it actually working. This is a screengrab from the Bionic Eye app, which locates the nearest Wifi, public transport, coffee shop and fast food (you can select how much of this you actually see...) and directions and distances. Currently looks a little bit like magic.

Two years from now this will probably look like Windows 95 looks to us now. For the moment I can't wait till Foursquare can overlay their recommendations onto this sort of AR, to show what people want to find rather than what retailers want to push.
(HT, as ever, to John for pointing it out)

The Mobile Social Computing Explosion

Mike Arauz's ability to cut through the hype surrounding technology and highlight the strategic implications for brands means that his decks are always worth reading. I thought this explanation of the combined impact of social and mobile nails the challenges that marketers and agencies need to get to grips with before next year

Culturally digital

I tend to get asked a lot of questions at work about how to find stuff quickly, where to get free stats, how to make presentations look different (content rather than design - my slides always look different and rarely in a good way) basically all the stuff that any self respecting media geek should know. So I put some slides together to show where i find stuff and how I use it, and showed them to a bunch of planners at our place, which I thought was worth posting here. Not least to thank Ramzi Yakob for the quote about being culturally digital).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Media Agency Twitter lists

so I made a list....

same as lots of other people have been doing on Twitter for the last few days. There are already a lot of great things to explore on Twitter lists (starting with Listorious). Lists make Twitter much more approachable for people first starting out using the service (who have tended to start off with celebrities if they didn't know many people using it - i know I did). They also make it easier to discover interesting people and stuff no matter how much time you have spent playing around with Twitter. Interestingly they also at the moment mean that you have to go to the web version. While Seesmic are already beta testing list integration, and Tweetdeck will no doubt be close behind, this can't hurt the traffic figures which Mashable keeps reporting as stagnating (do they think people really use the web version?)

Anyway, i started playing around with liststried to do something a bit different to recommending. I made a list of some good friends, some people that I do follow, and some that I have neither met, heard of, or followed, but who happen to work in the same same business as me - ie in a media agency in the UK. The filter to that being that they have used Twitter a fair bit recently. Unsurprisingly (or not, depending on your views on meeja agencies) I've found some interesting new people to follow, and hopefully I've made a useful kind of aggregator thing. It's sitting down the sidebar now, so see what you think, and let me know if you want to be added on.....