Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Post Mayan Thoughts

I need a digital butler slash cleaner slash addiction therapist.
Is it possible these days to give up wifi for Lent?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Best Read Office in the World

This Saturday, the documentary I made with Vera Frankl about the readers at the British Library is on Radio 4 at 10.30 am. Listen in or catch it on Iplayer.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Media is complicated


Saturday, April 02, 2011

Conscious Culture this week, to April 1

Anselm Kiefer at White Cube. Durs Grubein at the Southbank. Souce Code at the Everyman. The Happy Thieves, Richard Condon. Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. Field Grey, Philip Kerr. Plague Writing in Early Modern England, Ernest Gilman. The Sense of Ending, Frank Kermode. Episodes 19/20, The Killing. Episode 4, Treme.

Friday, March 04, 2011


This blog will resume soon. In the meantime here's the MIT Technology Review, archive now available.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Kind of Photo I Can't Take

But will really try this time.

From Magnum Photos picture of the week.

That's Alec Guinness learning his lines. I'd say Richmond, upon Thames.

Long Strange Year

The past 12 months have been different, to say the least. And this blog has suffered for that.

Anyway, for the next few months anything I may need to say can be found on Betwixt Europe as I finish the walk I started in May 2007. This time it's the Rhine, Switzerland, Germany and Holland. All thoughts of a technological or indeed Jacobean nature gratefully received.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Mobile mobility?

According to new data from ChangeWave Research, both usage and consumer sentiment towards Google's mobile operating system Android has increased over the past several months. As of December 2009, the research firm's survey shows that 4% of all smartphone owners now use a phone running some version of the Android OS. That's an increase of 200% since the previous survey released in September.

Read Write Web

Is the NYT having its L'Oreal moment?

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.

From New York Magazine.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The peasants are revolting

In his new book, You Are Not a Gadget, musician and avant-garde computer scientist Jaron Lanier examines the downsides to the internet’s free culture, according to a new New York Times review. He calls artists the “new peasants,” saying that by freely sharing their work, they have undermined not only the traditional media that once allowed artists to be paid for contributing creatively to society but also themselves. And even their art.

He rages against “hive thinking” and “digital Maoism”: in other words, “the glorification of open-source software, free information, and collective work at the expense of individual creativity.”

From FW Weekly.

9 million and counting

A study by a company that helps track pirated digital books estimates that there were 9 million illegal downloads of copyrighted books in the final months of last year. Attributor, which works for publishers including Hachette Book Group and John Wiley & Sons, scanned 25 Web sites that offer readers downloadable content, looking for 913 titles across categories ranging from business and investing to fiction.

From the NYT

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Close to the Edge

The website of the Borders bookshop chain in the UK has stopped taking new orders for books while "the business is in discussion with potential buyers".

The firm says that existing customer orders are also being delayed but will be fulfilled.

From the BBC.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Films of the Decade (1)

The Times Top Ten Films of the Decade:

The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum
No Country For Old Men
Grizzly Man
Team America
Slumdog Millionaire
The Last King of Scotland
Casino Royale
The Queen

And at 11: Borat (?)

Full List here . I would replace No Country - vapid, over-stylized, with Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. and Slumdog with Michael Clayton. Otherwise, pretty good - maybe Waltzing for Bashir and Todd Haynes I'm Not There instead of The Queen? And the Hurt Locker?

It has been another low dishonest decade and these films tell that story, I think. So perhaps Zoolander as well - the first film I saw in Manhattan after 9/11. We laughed hsyterically. Comeback film of the decade (on DVD) must be Fight Club, as the New York Times recently wrote.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's Coming

Google is poised to launch its "buy anywhere, read anywhere" digital books programme Google Editions simultaneously in the US, UK and Europe within the first half of next year.

Speaking at the Tools of Change conference in Frankfurt, Amanda Edmonds, Google's director of strategic partnerships, said the programme would be rolled out by June.

From this morning's Bookseller briefing.


NOWISM | “Consumers’ ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences. Consumers are also feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak. As a result, expect your brand and company to have no choice but to finally mirror and join the ‘now’, in all its splendid chaos, realness and excitement.”

From Trendwatching.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Creative" Commons: after the trust has gone

Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

As Alan Rusbridger says: Kafka.
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.

Merkel attacks Google aka European politician looks for new Microsoft

But this was interesting:
Merkel also stressed that she doesn't believe that eBooks will ever replace traditional books - though she does mention that 'new' technologies like audio books have changed the book market over the last few years.

From Read Write Web. Also the Google stuff.

He Returns: tomorrow (at dusk presumably)

Thanks to the daily dose from Flavorwire.
This authorized sequel picks up 25 years after the classic Dracula, and is based largely on Bram Stoker’s handwritten notes for characters and plot threads. Taking a new generation into account, it features Van Helsing’s morphine-obsessed protégé; Mina and Jonathan Harker’s lawyer-turned-actor son; and even the elder Stoker himself as a London theater director.

The video, of course:

Email is so over, says WSJ

We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

From the WSJ.

NHS gets US support, from the UK

Americans living in the United Kingdom and other European countries have been surprised to see the national health services in their host countries criticised so harshly in the US. While the system is far from perfect, we recognize that our fellow citizens at home are being misled and manipulated by political forces.

This website provides the basis for a forum for discussion and productive debate about Healthcare Reform in the USA, giving people a place where they can post their experiences - both good and bad - with various national health systems across the world.

Visit National Health Truths here.

Kindle: what mobiles? which prices?

The Kindle is expected to work with AT&T’s wireless network, which they say has the global reach that Amazon needs for its international plans. The idea is that AT&T will work alongside a number of partner networks in 100 countries around the globe

Although Amazon’s Kindle e-reader has been a major hit and the best-selling product in creator Amazon’s entire store this year, it has not been available outside of the US.

Amazon will later this month begin shipping a new version of the Kindle that can be used to purchase and download books in over 100 countries. The new version, the ‘Kindle with US and International Wireless’, will sell for $280 (£176) and can be pre-ordered now.

From the Telegraph.
And a little cost price analysis from the Guardian:
When asked by the Guardian precisely how much downloads would cost, an spokesman revealed that foreign customers - including those in Britain - would be paying $13.99 (£8.75) per book instead of the American price of $9.99 (£6.25). That amounts to a 40% premium for the same title.

"International customers do pay a higher price for their books than US customers due to higher operating costs outside of the US," said the spokesman. "Additionally, VAT rates in the EU are higher on ebooks than on print books."

More here.

Playing Poker with those Print Things

There will, I trust, be more like this in the coming months. About time too:
The media's response to this device will, I am sure, be negative. We will hear a lot, over the next few weeks, about the soullessness of reading on screen compared to turning pages. If I promised you a pound for every time you are told by a columnist during the month of October that "you can't read a Kindle in the bath", I would be skint by Christmas.

In the newspapers, on TV arts shows (are there still any TV arts shows?), on Radio 4, around us at social occasions, we will see and hear mournful disquisitions on the beauty of the old-fashioned papery book and what a tragedy it would be if people stopped buying them.

But you know what? Nobody buys books anyway. Nobody. If you have a friend who has written a book, ask how many copies it sold. The answer will probably be 12. Or none.

Victoria Coren goes realist in The Observer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

William Safire: 1929 - 2009 - Three's a Gestalt

Safire's rule eight for columnists:
8. Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day. When the two-topic writer strains to tie together chalk and cheese, turn instead to a pudding with a theme. (Three subjects, however, can give an essay the stability of an oaken barstool. Two's a crowd, but three's a gestalt.)

Love or loathe the politics the Safire columns had grace. the Springtime; I love Paris in the Fall

Too good:
Last night [September 23] was Paris’s first Literary Death Match, a throw-down organized by Opium magazine where authors read their work in competition before a live audience and jury. It started late because Beigbeder had gone temporarily missing, and then we were all shocked (and maybe not so shocked), when Beigbeder got up and announced that he had forgotten to bring his book; he was too drunk to compete; and anyway, he wouldn’t compete against a woman. Especially one as beautiful as Max Monnehay.

From The Paris Blog.

Books and Reading: the new criterion

The idea that "a book is a place (where readers, sometimes with authors, congregate)" arose out of a series of experiments investigating what happens when the act of reading moves from the printed page to an online space designed for social interaction. as we expanded the notion of a work to include the activity in the margin, in effect we re-defined "content" to include the conversation that a text engenders. Put another way, locating a text in a dynamic network brings the social aspects of reading to the fore. (see Without Gods, Gamer Theory, Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and The Golden Notebook projects)

In an earlier set of notes ("A Unified Field Theory of Publishing in the Networked Era") I suggested that as discourse moves off the page onto networked screens, the roles of authors, readers, editors, publishers will shift in significant ways. For example, the author's traditional commitment to engage with a subject matter on behalf of future readers will shift to a commitment to engage with readers in the context of a subject. Successful publishers, i posited, will distinguish themselves by their ability to build and nurture vibrant communities of interest, often with authors at the center, but not necessarily always.

More thoughts here from Bob Stein and the Institute for the Future of the Book

Newsweek: sitting on the fence again

The fact is, all this hysteria has nothing to do with saving the news, or saving jobs. Nor is it about saving democracy, which is what the red-in-the-face newspaper lovers always get themselves huffed about, as if newspapers and democracy were inextricably linked. Democracy existed long before newspapers did, and it will survive without them. And plenty of countries that don't have democracy do have newspapers. Nor would a bailout help readers. In fact, it would only slow down our shift to the Internet, which is a far better medium for delivering information.

The only beneficiaries of a bailout would be a handful of big newspaper companies that used to be profitable and powerful and now, well, aren't. Those companies saw the Internet charging toward them like a freight train, and they just stood there on the tracks. They didn't adapt. Why? Because for decades these companies enjoyed virtual monopolies, and as often happens to monopolists, they got lazy. They invested their resources in protecting their monopolies, using bully tactics to keep new competitors from entering their markets. They dished up an inferior product and failed to believe that anything or anyone could ever take their little gold mines away from them.

Going for it: Techtonic Shifts in Newsweek - by Daniel Lyons.

Paying: News Corps Research says Yes

In a memo leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald, he says: "News has conducted some audience research here in Australia and in the UK and U.S., which gives us confidence that, if we get the product and delivery system right, people will happily pay for news content online, on their computer, mobile, e-reader or other devices."

The Guardian.

Books: the dark ages again, so Umberto was right?

Please grant me a moment to explain. Act I: Google makes secret agreements with libraries to scan all books, calls it “search”, is greeted as a savior. When the details come out and are quite dark, it is too late as people remember it as a good thing.

Act II: Google is sued (surprise!) and secretly negotiates for maximum rights with as small a number of lawyers as possible. Having it be a class action is the stroke of genius — the parties get to rewrite copyright law. Google+TradeLawyers make a backroom deal — Google would get to solely control the out-of-print book world (most of the books of the 20th century) and the lawyers from the Authors Guild and the AAP would share tens of millions of dollars. Seems like a tidy deal. But there are two troubles — copyright and anti-trust. They need an act of Congress or the Justice Department to bless their cabal.

So where are we? They drafted a settlement that is completely self-serving, while short-changing authors, publishers, libraries, other countries, and Internet companies (if you don’t believe me, please read the words of hundreds of well-reasoned objections to the suit). The Justice Department did the right thing to cry anti-trust foul about the *two* monopolies that are proposed: Google and the Books Rights Registry. But interestingly, Google could only make a settlement where they were the only beneficiary because this was done as a class-action suit.

Full piece here at the Open Content Alliance

Getting the message out there

Accompanying Lord Mandelson and Ben Bradshaw’s visit to the BRIT school in Croydon to put the other side of the peer-to-peer file-sharing debate, the guys created a multimedia package that takes the press notice and tells an interesting policy story. What’s more, it was live on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and the corporate website within 4 hours as one of our new-style hybrid stories/multimedia resource pages.

Combined with the Digital Britain Forum blog’s discussion of the file-sharing issue, I think this makes an interesting and little-heard case for a policy, through digital media. I think that’s what government information in the 21st century is about.

From Helpful Technology.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sounds like Hollywood costs, but isn't

Development costs for the current generation of high-end consoles, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3, range from $20m to $30m, and those for next generation consoles could average $60m, according to Ubisoft's chairman and chief executive, Yves Guillemot. Games often take two years or more to develop.

The Guardian on the "freemium" business model.

Facing History

Going back in history, it's possible to imagine digital technologies — from websites to cell phones to Facebook and Twitter — making a real difference. Imagine if these options were available to Soviet dissidents and refuseniks who, back in the 1970s, were limited to secretly communicating by one handwritten samizdat at a time. Maybe the "Iron Curtain" would have come down a decade earlier. Or perhaps the outcome would have been different in Tienanmen Square in 1989 had Chinese protesters been able to communicate and organize instantaneously.

Abraham Cooper on the Facebook blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I've forgotten what this is about already

Researchers now say that the stress of not being able to process information as fast as it arrives – combined with the personal and social expectation that, say, you will answer every email – can deplete and demoralise you. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and expert on attention-deficit disorders, argues that the modern workplace induces what he calls "attention deficit trait", with characteristics similar to those of the genetically based disorder. Author Linda Stone, who coined the term "continuous partial attention" to describe the mental state of today's knowledge workers, says she's now noticing – get this – "email apnea": the unconscious suspension of regular and steady breathing when you tackle your email.

There are even claims that the relentless cascade of information lowers people's intelligence. A few years ago, a study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard reported that the IQ scores of knowledge workers distracted by email and phone calls fell from their normal level by an average of 10 points – twice the decline recorded for those smoking marijuana, several commentators wryly noted.

The Guardian.

Instant trust: goodbye Google

For more than 10 years, Google has organized the Web by figuring out who has authority. The company measures which sites have the most links pointing to them—crucial votes of confidence—and checks to see whether a site grew to prominence slowly and organically, which tends to be a marker of quality. If a site amasses a zillion links overnight, it's almost certainly spam.

But the real-time Web behaves in the opposite fashion. It's all about "trending topics"—zOMG a plane crash!—which by their very nature generate a massive number of links and postings within minutes. And a search engine can't spend days deciding what is the most crucial site or posting; people want to know immediately.

So a new generation of search engines like Tweetmeme, OneRiot, Topsy, Scoopler, and Collecta are trying to redefine what makes a piece of information important.

From Wired.

Google books turns another page

The judge overseeing Google's controversial agreement with American publishers to digitise millions of books has delayed a hearing into the $125m deal - effectively shutting down the settlement and sending it back to the drawing board.

Instead of proceeding with the internet giant's plans to make millions of in-copyright books available online and take a slice of the proceeds - a deal first announced last year - the groups will now go back and renegotiate the settlement in way that satisfies critics including the US Department of Justice.

The Guardian

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cities and the matrix of the future

Nice piece: I remember talking in 1993 with Nicholas Negroponte about Archigram and their amazing ideas; now they are back again in the futurist. From Future Metro.

Archigram didn't build their visions, other architects brought aspects of them into the world. Echoes of their "Plug-in city" can undoubtedly be seen in Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers' Pompidou Centre in Paris. Much of the 'hi-tech' style of architecture (chiefly executed by British architects such as Rogers, Norman Foster and Nicholas Grimshaw) popular for corporate HQs and arts centers through the 80s and 90s can be traced back to, if not Archigram, then the same set of pop sci-fi influences that a generation of british schoolboys grew up with - into world-class architects.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wireless: the new file sharing?

Wireless carriers shouldn't be allowed to block certain types of Internet traffic flowing over their networks, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission chairman said Monday in a speech that got a cool response from the industry.

Unless done very carefully, this extension of regulation risks stifling investment in Internet access, executives said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said wireless carriers should be subject to the same "open Internet" rules that the agency has begun to apply to home broadband providers. That may mean that a carrier couldn't, for example, ban the use of file-sharing services on its wireless network, which AT&T Inc. does now.

From AP.

Trust me I'm a former spin doctor

Alastair Campbell on getting elected...
The first and most obvious step to authenticity is to be who and what you are. That does not mean not taking care of image, message, words, pictures, clothes, media management, voices of third party support, attacks on opponents. But they must all speak to a basic strategic reality, because in this more intense exposure, the public will get to the reality anyway.

...and what is it about this that sounds a little, er, forced about this argument?
In contrast: Nadav Kander's amazing pictures at Flowers East...Obama's People.

Micropayments: good if you are a monopoly

Reifman defends his approach by pointing to several successful models of payment for services, including iTunes, text messaging, TiVo, and broadband Internet. The first thing that leaped out at me is that three of those four things — iTunes, text messaging and broadband Internet — are a result of something approaching a monopoly (or an oligopoly or cartel, in the case of text messaging and broadband Internet). Apple can charge for music because it controls access to the songs from all the major record labels. Phone companies and cable companies can charge usurious rates for text messaging and Internet because they have little or no real competition. How does any of that apply to newspapers?

From the Nieman Journalism Review.

Grande skinny, slightly wet extra hot news

Terry Heaton's always interesting blog reflects on the news that: MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski is now sponsored by Starbucks. What happens when it is time for a story about, let's say, coffee wars and MSNBC...
...stayed away from the negative story about coffee. Think about this before you react, but in today’s world of thousands of news sources, what is really wrong with that? And wouldn’t people feel that the one place they could get the Starbucks’ “side” of the story would be “Morning Joe?”

If you assume that you are the ONLY source for news and that you have to market yourself as such, then the need for such purity is pretty obvious. But if you can bring yourself to accept that you don’t need to be the ONLY source for news, then the fundamentals of purity don’t matter as much. News is ubiquitous today

Slippery slope this news by osmosis stuff, so we can be trusted to always feel the bias. But it won't be the last time we hear this kind of thing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I thought I'd drop you a short hand-written

It's true that kids will write more and more on computers and cellphones. Nonetheless, humanity has learned to rediscover as sports and aesthetic pleasures many things that civilisation had eliminated as unnecessary.

People no longer travel on horseback but some go to a riding school; motor yachts exist but many people are as devoted to true sailing as the Phoenicians of 3,000 years ago; there are tunnels and railroads but many still enjoy walking or climbing Alpine passes; people collect stamps even in the age of email; and armies go to war with Kalashnikovs but we also hold peaceful fencing tournaments.

It would be a good thing if parents sent kids off to handwriting schools so they could take part in competitions and tournaments – not only to acquire grounding in what is beautiful, but also for psychomotor wellbeing.

Umberto Eco on handwriting in the Guardian.

Can't Buy Me Love?

The music industry dispute over illegal downloading intensified yesterday after talks between record labels and a rebel group of artists broke down.

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) has spent a week in talks with record labels such as Sony and EMI, who back plans by Lord Mandelson to disconnect internet users who persistently download music illegally.

From The Times.

Is Google a Library?

Untitled from andrewkeen on Vimeo.

Andrew Keen interviews Siva Vaidhyanathan.

Pay day still someway off...

From Paid Content/the Guardian

Never mind the depth, Feel the speed

We may think metaphorically of the production of knowledge as a function of “information” and “attention,” with attention understood as the set of activities by which information is ultimately transformed into various forms of knowledge. By virtue of its unprecedented impact on the relative prices of information and human attention, information technology is driving a correspondingly profound transformation of knowledge production, the main feature of which is a shift of emphasis from “depth” to “speed.” This is simply because depth and nuance require time and attention to absorb. So as attention has become the dominant scarcity, depth has become less “affordable.” Moreover, with information so abundant, strategies are needed to process it more quickly, lest something of vital interest or importance is missed.

From the Globe and Mail.

Ex-Bankers: get into publishing now

Even though Muhtar Bakare has lived all his life in Nigeria, a country enamoured of Big Men, he gave up his position as a bank executive to start an independent publishing house. His reason? He worried that nobody was publishing fiction. He believed Nigerians had to "tell our own stories".

Trust, Again

The truth is the Internet didn’t steal the audience. We lost it. Today fewer people are systematically reading our papers and tuning into our news programs for a simple reason—many people don’t feel we serve them anymore. We are, literally, out of touch.

Today, people expect to share information, not be fed it. They expect to be listened to when they have knowledge and raise questions. They want news that connects with their lives and interests. They want control over their information. And they want connection—they give their trust to those they engage with—people who talk with them, listen and maintain a relationship.

Trust is key. Many younger people don’t look for news anymore because it comes to them. They simply assume their network of friends—those they trust—will tell them when something interesting or important happens and send them whatever their friends deem to be trustworthy sources, from articles, blogs, podcasts, Twitter feeds, or videos.

From Nieman.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Normal Service Resumes Tomorrow

That's Monday morning...

It has been a hard summer; and now it is time to get back to work.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peter Hunt 31.12.1932 - 09.09.2009

My father.

The pleasure of risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination... in a word, experience. Climbing in particular, is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of playing chess with your body. If I make a mistake the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period I am directly responsible for my actions. In that beautiful, silent, world of mountains, it seems to me worth a little risk.

Al Alvarez

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tipping Point (and symbol)

Rickett said he published an ebook simultaneously with all his titles and that this was linked to new online marketing strategies. "Books are getting much better at using the internet to create excitement, like films do," he said. This summer Rickett has watched online interest in Viking Books' sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Eoin Colfer, translate into heavy orders for the book well before its publication.

The technology that allows readers to read books on a handheld screen is improving just at the moment Brown's The Lost Symbol hits the streets. For Rickett, the possibilities, including books with scored soundtracks and video inserts, are just becoming clear.

New Dan Brown is material and e-book...from the Observer (currently a print newspaper).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Convergence v. Google

"Google is the king of regular search. FriendFeed is the king of real-time search. This makes the coming battle over this issue much more interesting," Mr Scoble told the BBC.

Google buys Friendfinder. From the BBC.

Monday, August 10, 2009

They will pay - for all you can eat

The research, carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, reveals that an overwhelming majority of 14- 24-year-olds would be interested in signing up to an MP3 download service that would allow them to get as much music as they wanted for a fixed fee.

Of those currently using P2P networks 85% would welcome such a service, with 57% saying that it would stop them filesharing illegally and 77% of them claiming they would still buy CDs.

"If they're prepared to work with us if we give them an all-you-can-eat download service, well then, as an industry we may then well have to step up to the plate and try to provide them with that kind of service," says Sharkey.

There is evidence that the business is already moving in that direction. In June, the cable company Virgin Media announced the launch of an unlimited download service in partnership with the world's largest music company, Universal, which will allow subscribers to stream and download as many tracks as they want for £10-£15 a month.

Although the survey found huge enthusiasm for streaming music, such as on Spotify or YouTube, 78% of respondents said they would not be prepared to pay for a streaming service.

From UK Music as reported in the Guardian.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Spotify: three steps to heaven?

Spotify needs to hit three triggers if it's not to be just the latest flash-in-the-pan: "Break through the 15-20 million user bar like Pandora did", "convert roughly five percent of its user base to premium offerings" and "build a sustainable ad business that helps shoulder the cost of its free users".

Otherwise it's Walk on By? From The Guardian.

Copycats No More? The Bill is Coming next Summer

He accepted that there could be a need for furious litigation to prevent stories and photographs being copied elsewhere: "We'll be asserting our copyright at every point."Among quality newspapers, Murdoch singled out the Daily Telegraph's run of stories about MPs' expenses as an example of news for which consumers would be willing to pay, describing it as a "great scoop": "I'm sure people would be very happy to pay for that."

He is Rupert Murdoch. Charge is a gonna come.
NB. Posts sporadic for a while.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

That Paying for Newspapers Online Meme: FT's Lionel Barber

From the Guardian - who have mentioned the "paying" thing before now themselves.
The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that "almost all" news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

"How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air," Barber said in a speech at at a Media Standards Trust event at the British Academy last night.

"But I confidently predict that within the next 12 months, almost all news organisations will be charging for content."

Let's say it happens: surely we will also see a huge growth in non-pay for news from new sources, and new kinds of news providers? And there's always the BBC...

The Cabinet Office: getting funky?

I was speaking recently to one of the academics working with Tim Berners-Lee on opening up UK government information. We both agreed that at Cabinet Office level some very interesting things were going on. Here's the latest CO review:
The report highlights more than 30 case studies from 15 countries. It emphasises that innovation and productivity come from forging stronger relationships with citizens and finds the most successful services have five distinguishing characteristics:

*Using entitlements to put power in the hands of users of services
*Transforming accountability of services through real time, highly local information
*Incentivising the creation of tailor made, integrated, personalised services which citizens can shape
*Answering people’s ambition for prevention rather than cure
*New professionalism in front-line staff and leaders, with new organisational structures which encourage this.

And the report, Power in People's Hands, is here.

Waterstones: sure we love the digital...for marketing

Missing the point, no? From Waterstone's Twitter feed:
WaterstonesUse #voucher code BG2298 at checkout for an extra 10% off when you spend £25. Excludes Reader, eBooks & accessories. Please RT!

Waterstones Twitter.

The People's Supermarket?

I co-wrote a book about the future of retail many years ago: didn't think we'd come this far, so soon.
Tesco has said it sees the future of its online offering as an open platform to which anyone can contribute.

From New Media Age. Interviewed Tesco and they were always ahead of the game but...
Tesco, along with its digital agency EMC Conchango, Microsoft and Nesta, is inviting developers to an open day, called T-Jam, in August to introduce them to the initiative.

Nick Lansley, head of research and development and head of special projects, told new media age, “We’re opening up our affiliate programme to allow people to develop for whatever device they want, whether it’s a website, mobile phone or set-top box, and make money for each new customer that comes to us as a result.

“The reason we’re doing this is that although we have lots of ideas we don’t necessarily have the resources to do them ourselves,” he added. “So the new API allows developers to write whatever they want, benefit us but also make money off the back of it.”

Great stuff.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What The Wire tells us about the NOTW story – or are we watching “All the President’s Men” in reverse negative?

Fans of the “greatest TV series of all time” (© just about everybody) will know that surveillance is the glue that holds together an urban palimpsest travelling across, down and through the mean and the murky streets of Baltimore. Created by David Simon, The Wire charts the labyrinthine interconnections of “place”, drugs, prostitution, police, politics, media, and money.

The Wire depicts Baltimore life from the bottom to the top; the street corner where the drugs are sold to the Masters of the Universe donor-parties for Senators and their flunkies. Sound familiar and decidedly non-fiction? It feels it. Re-watching series three of The Wire this week, courtesy of BBC2 and Sky Plus, I’ve also been struck by how much it echoes London now. And how many seeming parallels there are with the News of the World phone-hacking claims.

The Wire’s best moments of surveillance occur when a pay-phone, or bleeper, and then, later, pay-to-go mobile phones, are hacked. For the small surveillance team run by Cedric Daniels these are the key moments of progress in their story – and mission as “police”. The team tries to work up from the information they glean from the phone hacks – towards the street bosses, Barksdale or “Stringer” Bell – by connecting one drug drop, or one murder, to the person above. Meanwhile the “Street” is moving into property, laundering, and cleaning up, and is always ahead of "the Game". The “product” on the street corner is the fuel but very quickly not the endgame. Think along the lines of a NOTW newspaper front cover to the SKY Arts HD channel showing, say, Parsifal live from La Scala.

So who are the street players in all this NOTW version of The Wire: we the consumers who want pure celebrity/political hits. We’re supplied on the street corners (and online) by the news sources who are reliant on the hacks and their “agents” and don’t (as long as we don’t know) care how we get our score. We become addicted (we get “Heat”) and soon enough demand outreaches supply. But there’s always more product, as long as someone can hack the mobile – or be given the CD – and of course some of the people whose phones are hacked are not totally immune to a hit of celebrity revelation themselves. The beat goes on and on: however often Jimmy McNulty, or Nick Davies, make a breakthrough there is the inevitable two steps back. Too many interests are at stake. And Premier League contracts. Or re-election campaigns.

And higher up the Jobian ladder beyond even The Wire’s Barksdale or “Stringer” Bell – or indeed – with the NOTW story, Andy Coulson, lurk even bigger figures; big enough and hard enough to reach, who might recall in the older of us another Colson (sic) – “Chuck”, special council to President Richard Nixon, and commonly named as one of “Watergate Seven” – a group involved, as I remember, in Wire tapping themselves. History: first as tragedy, then farce, and now a digital dance of revelation and newspaper wars and political cowardice. But this time it is a circular dance, and with no end until the file-shared music stops.

In fact a late night dose of Newsnight, followed by The Wire and topped off with a TCM rerun of All the President’s Men shows us how far we’ve come since 1972-4. The new Woodward and Bernstein edits celebrity news; the politicians hire ex-NOTW editors for their streetworthiness; and everyone wishes it was all like the West Wing. Instead we’re all hustling the street for news of – what? – Nigella Lawson’s texting skills? Elle McPherson’s views on the Economy? John Prescott’s latest DIY initiative?

And we worry about ID cards?

Modern media-political life, despite our need for West Wing simplicities, is surveillance-driven shallow and intrusion-thick heavy: it’s really like The Wire: bleak, Dickensian, filled with quick-fit sex, and very few happy endings. Except that few of us want to save it on Sky Plus to view at our leisure: it feels too rank.

Novel Debuts (about the French Revolution, or not) now(ish) on Twitter

Happy Bastille Day! Today I'm releasing my debut novel, The French Revolution, on Twitter. As far as I can tell... less than a minute ago

Now that's what I call disintermediation.
Matt Stewart. Read on here.

It is around three pm in the UK. Think there is an hour before launch. Blimey! Twitter.

Update: Matt Stewart in the Huff-Po.
My immediate reaction, were I in your shoes, would be incredulity. Who reads long-form literature on Twitter? Who reads long-form anything online?

The short answer is: nobody. The internet is a universe of abundance, overwhelming us with creative videos and fascinating articles and a Pandora's Box of endlessly entertaining distractions. With this reality in mind, I don't expect people to read my whole novel online.

What's next for the Book: Oxfam vs Waterstones

A short story of our times: I'm finding almost as many relevant research books for my new book in the Oxfam store (in Hampstead) as in the Waterstones opposite; and most certainly the (material) university library - which is good for Milton and Publishing History, and perhaps Orwell.

Today I bought books on contemporary economics, trust and truth, story writing and "authenticity"; recently The Future of the Internet. Today "fiction" was on a half-price offer. In Oxfam. What is this saying: the books are out of date almost as quickly as they are published; or that "books about now" are one-read discards? And what about that fiction offer? Is it the computer games, the death of the story, the failure to catch the "now" of life? Who knows - yet. Still, I snagged a Waterstones copy of The Junior Officers' Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey: now that holds promise.