Thursday, February 26, 2009

What community do newspapers create?

This article in Techdirt on newspaper funding raises the very real issue that other commentators have made before. The demise of ad revenues on newspaper websites is not down to the lack of advertisers, its down to the reason why advertisers would want to advertise on these sites.

Its not enough these days to provide hundreds of pages of content with adverts and hope you sell all the spaces crested. In fact, as I've mentioned before, some newspapers realise this and are even reducing their inventory.

So what does make a site valuable enough for advertisers to want to spend money on them?

1. Relevant content
But does this have to be an exact version of what I read on the train this morning? Why can't you include links in all your online articles to your sources or provide more supporting information than you currently do, so that you couldn't fit into your 100 word print-version? What about the additional articles that you wrote but couldn't get submitted by the deadline - but are still really useful?
Also, what about making the content more relevant by allowing proper personalisation and customisation (such as the Google news page). You could also consider adding useful tools and relevant interactive features & functionality. And don't get me started on channel relevance....

2. Engaging
You build a stronger connection with your audience/readership, by allowing them to engage. This isn't that difficult and you don't need that latest fancy disucssion board or chat tool, you just need to facilitate dialogue between yourselves and your users.
BTW: you also need to allow this to happen between themselves if you are after creating a community worth joining.
For a good example of this I point people at . This IT news site has a decent range of articles published throughout the day and often goes into significant detailed investigation of key technology issues. It also provides and invites discussion on each of its articles and generates a decent community around subjects and writers, without alienating the one-off commenter.

The question to ask therefore is... if The Register and similar reporters as Steve Rubel highlights here have manged to do this? Why don't the others stop trying to convince everyone that their traditonal business model still works and learn a newer trick or two?

Corporate structure and the customer

I've wrote previously about how your company structure is not necessarily your customer's view of your company, so it comes as no suprise that Steve Hurst, editor at Customer Strategy feels that the silo'd structure of companies are to blame. He's just attended the Technology for Marketing & Advertising show in London and has blogged about:
"..the underlying ‘command and control’ corporate structures that are making it nigh on impossible for organisations to give their customers what they want and when they want it in a consistent manner.... Come on guys this is the 21st century not the 19th."
Strong words?

Well, not really, given that very few companies show a high degree of customer experience maturity, despite customer service making a difference in a recession.

As this economic downturn bites deeper, at what point is it that companies realise that their structure may be the difference between success and failure (and its not the fault of the customer)? Perhaps only the ones that live to tell the tale in the end!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Social Graphing the Bank of England

The Bank of England's going through a turbulent time right now thanks to the recession (although perhaps not as much as Gordon Brown or the FSA), so its interesting to look at its Corporate Social Graph as viewed on Silobreaker:

What does this tell us? Well, it doesn't tell me much really... but I'm certain that the Bank of England doesn't have its own tool for doing this sort of graphing and it may be useful for them to plot their relationships over time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ryanair comments on blog

Its not often I get annoyed about somthing I see online (as I think I've seen most type of things by now). However I was most displeased to see that a blog exposing a bug in the Ryanair booking website was repeatedly subjected to insulting comments by people claiming to be RyanAir staff:

If indeed it really was staff at Ryanair hurtling the abuse.... then not only is this another PR own-goal for the company, but perhaps someone should point out that their time could be better spent investigating & fixing issues than being rude on someone's blog?

Ryanair has confirmed that it was a member of its staff who commented on Jason Roe's blog last week. However the complete response from Stephen McNamara of Ryanair has left many bloggers even more dumbfounded.
"It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won't be happening again."Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel".

Oh.... how silly can this all get?

Twitter for PR (a slideshare guide)

Also, for anyone investigating the use of Twitter as a PR tool, take a look at this presenation from Corrinew who is Asst. Professor of Communication at St. Edward's University:

Twitter for PR

Today HTC announced via Twitter that it was launching its new phone in North America:
(Thanks go to Neville Hobson ( for pointing this out)

This is not the first use of the tool for PR purposes. Company PR team such as JetBlue's have been using Twitter for a while now.

So how many UK companies are currently using Twitter as a PR tool? (Note: I can't find any right now, but I'm still looking)

Fake user generated video content

Question: What is fake UGC video and what is not?
  1. A fan of a brand receiving a free clothing product and wearing it (and reviewing it) on their video blog
  2. A company freely asking for video clips of their customers eating one of their products and the posting the silliest ones online?
  3. An online marketing person recording his girlfriend (in very little clothes) using a Nintendo Wii Fit computer game, and then uploading it to YouTube for millions to view

The answer is... it depends. There's a thin line between posting honest and dishonest content. In my opinion, the deciding factor is transparency & disclosure. In my examples given, this would be OK...

  1. As long as the fan states they got the product for free. Its then up to the video blog audience to decide if they accept that
  2. As long as the company makes it clear that they are requesting content from customers and the purpose they will be put to. Its then up to the customer to decide if they want to submit video
  3. As long as Gio & Lauren were doing it in their own time and there was no genuine link between the agency who they both worked for at the time and Nintendo (which they both deny)
    Note: has now moved agencies, but still champions cyber fitness - Its then up to you the viewer to decide if you want to visit this site again and again....

Monday, February 23, 2009

What if newspapers didn't exist?

What if they all went on strike? That would be bad wouldn't it?

That may mean they don't have to break stories about how they are great at errr.... breaking stories:

The divison of creativity

The divison of labour was cited by Adam Smith as an essential factor in the growth of prosperity (A.K.A. The Wealth of Nations). The idea was that as you sub-divide production into smaller tasks, you create specialisation in activity & process and therefore efficiency in production. Factories were created that allowed this specialism in production and resulted in increases in product and quality. Note: My school economics teacher would be proud of me

However as we reach a new economic time where:
  1. Media business models are failing (e.g. newspapers/printing presses)
  2. Distribution is free and the incremental cost of digital production is almost nothing
  3. Consumers needs are fragmented (and continuing to do-so)
  4. People are forming online groups that more-closely resemble social structures
  5. Creativity and innovation are recognised and encouraged more & more
Are we now suffering from a mainstream factory mentality that is counter-productive to understanding and embracing the new economy?

Tom Fishburne puts this nicely in his 'Idea Factory' Brand Camp cartoon:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crowdsourced management could be a legal loophole

I've been following the court case of the team from PirateBay P2P File Sharing service with some amazement. Firsly they had half of the charges against them dropped on the first day of their prosecution and secondly the Swedish team behind it seem more intent on having huge parties before any decision has been arrived at.. how liberating!

Anyway, it seems that the organic and non-hierarchical oganisation structure of the company may prove to be their saviour. It seems that on Thursday the case prosecutor had some difficulty understanding how the collaborative organisation of the site worked.

In an effort to understand who the boss was, when asked "But someone must ultimately decide whether to put up a certain text or graphic" the defendant Fredrik Neij answered "No. Why? If someone believes a new text is needed, he just inputs it. Or if a graphic is ugly, someone makes a better one. The one who wants to do something just does it." Humourous stuff perhaps... but it may also be intersting to see how the Swedish legal system copes with allocating blame in a crowdsourced situation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Could torrents save newspapers?

For those who don't know what a Bit Torrent is, I'll just quickly explain that its a Per-to-peer file sharing service that enable you to download large files from a collection of smaller ones scattered across the Internet.
I'll not visit the legality of the issue or where intellectual theft occurs when you download a copyrighted / licensed file such as some software or a digitally encoded movie. Suffice to say its enough of an issue to get those who run sites thank link off to these collection of files (torrents) in enough trouble from official bodies. But exist they do and you don't have to download illegal material from them (although you do have to wonder why they name themselves 'Pirate Bay', etc. )

Instead you can use them as a new distribution method, or so one Swedish newspaper thinks . Sydsvenskan (no, don't ask me to pronounce it, I have enough trouble reading the credits on my DVD collection) has started distributing a nicely produced PDF of its newspaper.

However the jury is still out on whether this legal use of P2P technology is actually worth it, let alone a sensible business model (e.g. if it was, why aren't other media companies doing this more?)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How many auto brands do you need?

Now, most of us recognise, buy and have affinity with some brands. They are crafted to appeal to specific factors (e.g. demographic, attitudinal, aspirational, etc.). We're probably all aware to some extent that a lot of brands out there are owned by the same parent company. In fact in some markets these brands even compete for your attention and £'s.

Some examples:

  1. Banking: NatWest & RBS:
    Different banks, different branches, one owner (RBS)
  2. Auto insurance: Direct Line, Churchill, Privilege:
    Differently targetted customers, different pricing and one owner (RBS again)
  3. Car manufacturers: Fiat, Alpha Romeo, Ferrari
    Different products, different country prominence and one owner (Fiat)
Note: Apparently you can still buy a new Alpha in the UK!

But what happens when you start cutting back your brands?.... What impact does that have? Well this is now happening in the USA with General Motors, who have announced in their 'viability plans' for long-term success to the US Government, these include:
  • No longer making any new Saturn cars from 2011
  • 'Considering the options' for Pontiac (e.g. cutting models and/or merging with another division of GM)
This is already in addition to its efforts to try and sell SAAB and Hummer (Which incidentally doesn't seem to have done so well recently. Isn't it suprising that in a time when fuel costs have shot up and there is a general acceptance that the 'War On Terror' may have been a bit of a rouse...that nobody wants to buy a huge gas-guzzling military-styles vehicle right now?). Expect GM execs to decide whether to turn of Hummer's life support machine by the end of March 2009.

So... what does it mean when large car companies start killing off their auto brands?

Well.... not a lot perhaps. From what I understand about the Saturn brand, its not the most highly regarded automobile in the USA. It was originally developed in response to the encroaching Japanese offering and seen as a 'new approach'. Now they make also-ran SUV's and Euro-shelled eastern copies, so that obviously worked well . A look at their web presence will tell you how much they like their customers:

In Europe (and especially the UK) we've steadily killed off a lot of auto brands, such as:

  • Ghia - was once an Italian design studio and sports car maker, now its used as a trim specification on the occasional Ford saloon or MPV.
  • Triumph - once split from the motocycle division in the mid-1900's, they made cars of diminishing quality until its demise at the hands of British Leyland, created in 1969 and once the 5th largest car maker in the World.
  • Rover - once the maker of decent and fast saloon cars (especially if you ever got chased by one of these 'jam sandwiches' as a younger driver ), now the company is 'resting' in the drawer of an Indian accountant somewhere.

So what's the moral of this story?

Well, as the British motor industry has proved, you don't need many auto brands. But then, we don't really have a British car industry any more. Could GM be heading in the same direction?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Customer Experience Maturity

Having previously menioned how customer experience (e.g. a bad multi-channel experience) can make the difference between financial success and failure, I'm amazed to see some companies making obvious mistakes that affect have a business impact.
For those that want proof of this, you should really read Forrester's report from 24th March last year - incidentally my wedding date - that shows how a better Customer Experience can "Generate Significant Revenue"

Bruce Temkin, who produced this report ,also recently presented further work on this theme at the Net Promoter Conference in San Francisco. As well as covering additional customer experience research, Bruce covered the essential question:

"Why is it that firms let customers down?"
He also walked-through his 5 levels of corporate customer experience maturity. In essence, how tuned-in are companies to the needs/wants/thoughts/perspective of their customers, rather than just the 'how do we sell more stuff to them?' mentality? Here's his scale along with the percentage of companies he believes are at that point:
  1. Interested
    customer experience is important, but funding and upper-level support is minimal.
  2. Invested
    customer experience is important and initial programs are being put in place -- but the effort is still not connected with profitability for the organization.
  3. Committed
    customer experience is critical to the company and executives understand how it's connected to fundamental results: It's not customer experience for customer experience's sake.
  4. Engaged
    customer experience is a core part of the company's strategy and objectives.
  5. Embedded
    it's in the company's DNA, the essence of everything and anything the company does.
I'll leave it to Jessica Tsai Assistant Editor at CRM magazine to give you the full low-down on the presentation:

So where does your organisation rank?

Underhand activity and negative PR

Sitting on the train this morning, I read the freebie newspaper (Metro) front page article about Facebook deleting a provision which said users could remove all their content at any time. These new terms meant that Facebook had rights to freely use anything people had uploaded to the website, even after members had deleted material or close their accounts.

However, in a dramatic U-Turn (shouldn't that be an 'about-face-book'?), Facebook has now reversed this action and reverted to its previous terms (read Mr Zuckerberg's blog article urgently posted last night).
The impact of both these actions is serious, not only as useful fuel for privacy campaigners such as the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC), but also as an example of how to quickly create mistrust and affect your overall reputation in the online world.

As Zuckerberg is at pains to point out, Facebook now has 175 million members across the world "if it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world". However, its already clear that more and more people now believe Facebook to be less of the democracy it once made itself to be. And a reputation such as this is very hard to shrug off....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Newspaper traffic growing, not shrinking

If we keep hearing so much about the demise of the newspaper industry, how come the traffic for the top 10 US online newspapers has grown? Yes, that's right, the top 10 have had a 16% year-on-year uplift.

The trouble is people are just not buying the paper product so much these days and more recently the advertising revenues are declining (18% / $2bn drop in the USA market towards the end of 2008). So even if they could monetise this increased traffic, its worth less in ad income to them.

Uh oh!

Internet Video Overtakes TV for 18-24

In their 'State of the Industry' research report, online video advertising company LiveRail say that US-based 18 - 24 year olds now spend more time watching internet-distributed video content than “traditional” broadcast television

Although these figures are mainly based upon their own ad-serving figures, they do predict US online advertising spend increasing by 55% in 2009 and 40% in 2010.

Stranegly I can't find any figures for similar UK-based Generation Y or millenial activity....

Monday, February 16, 2009

game set and matchpoint

Ok, we all know that technology (and particularly the disruptive power of the Internet) has changed PR and journalism forever right?

Now PR professionals have access to a powerful new search application that identifies the most appropriate and influential reporters and bloggers for their specific story pitch.

MatchPoint is offering a 10 Day Free Trial to check out this innovative new way to match your press release or other pitching materials with relevant journalists and bloggers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Should CEO's Twitter?

Dear CEO, what are you to do? You're worrying that you'll have your salary capped to a meagre $500k per year, you've learnt how to blog, and now one of your communications staff suggests you Twitter as well.

"You want me to what?" you ask.

Well, there's a growing call for you to put your thoughts down in 140 characters and let the world follow your every anouncement (and mispelling). . Loic Le Meur, founder of video-blogging company Seesmic, has very strongly stated "If European CEOs think it is a waste of time to Tweet, it is arrogant and a wrong step in their company's strategy". Perhaps, but whislt it may be good for smaller company CEO's to Twitter (e.g. those of tech companies looking to generate more PR, SEO and VC funding in a very crowded market), it is something your Fortune 500 CEO should really be spending time on, rather than running the company?

Well according to Forbes, its a practice growing in the US but not getting as much adoption over in Europe.

Well CEO, should you decide to Twitter, here's a useful guide:
(Note, this article is actually for CIO's, but I think its safe to say its relevant for the top dog as well):

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Online retailers fail on email customer service

Figures released today from the the eDigital Research survey of 39 UK eTailers , has, Amazon and Asos claiming the top three slots this year . However many of them provide poor customer service by email.

eConsultancy goes into more detail and give specific examples of which online retailers do well (and which ones don't):

More details are available if you download the report:
(I'm waiting on my one right now)

Twitter and revenue

There's been a lot of speculation this week about Twitter possibly charging for its service. And I've been guilty of keeping this speculation going by discussing the subject online & offline. The basis of this dialogue has been whether they will possibly charge brands, companies or individuals.
Well, now the subject has been addressed by the folks at Twitter, who have clearly stated:

"Twitter will remain free to use by everyone—individuals, companies, celebrities, etc."
So whilst they have nothing to report just yet, its a useful exercise to ask this Top100 UK websites and the 7th most popular UK social networking site how they are actually goinf to make any money.

Because, surely it HAS to start making money eventually? It can't just eat $20m in funding and keep asking for more... can it? That would be like the 'good old bubble days' where nobody actually cared about the revenue model... until the money run out.

If the rumours are true and it turned down a £500m offer from Facebook, then it must have other plans..... right? How about?

  • Contextual advertising (e.g. AdSense)
  • In-tweet advertising (e.g. Magpie)
  • Collecting/processing/selling information? (Perhaps, but doesn't Facebook have more to sell? )
  • White-labelling its service to closed-user communities or verticals
  • Selling any remaining 'vanity' user accounts (like personalised vehicle registrations) or at least charging for ther transfer
  • Offering a paid-for 'premium' service (e.g. to see all your previous tweets, etc.)
  • Charge companies for interfacing with its API
  • Sell to Google for more than Facebook's offer

Any more ideas?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Micropayments will save the newspaper industry...

... won't they?

Errr, maybe not!
But that won't stop Walter Isaacson (yup, the ex-CEO of CNN and one-time editor if TIME magazine) saying on The Daily Show that newspapers made a mistake by initially putting everything on the Internet for free and and asking questions such as:

"Who's going to send people to Baghdad if always everything in journalism is free?"
A few points, if I may:

  1. Journalism isn't free (its product is just given away for free by the likes of Google)

  2. Once you've started giving stuff away for free, its incredibly difficult to then start charging (even small amounts) for it

  3. Please don't 'save your newspaper' if you can't provide a compelling reason for doing so

Digital influence - can you afford to ignore it?

A lot of companies have realised that they need a website and even use it as a channel for selling/publishing. But how many companies actually understand influence online?

Well....I've come to realise, perhaps not many.

Customers now participate online and enter into dialogue about companies & brands with others. They only involve the actual product owners when either that company gets involved positively (such as participating in discussions, etc.) or negatively (e.g. when 'cease & desist' notices get delivered).

Surely its agencies or consultants and not companies/brands that drive a lot of online engagement models? It also makes sense for the specialist to... errr... specialise in this sort of thing. Online is still quite mysterious to a lot of tradional marketers or internal corporate PR people, who have been trained in traditional methods or gained their experience in that way... so far. But for how long can they afford to ignore it?

Oh, and if your agency isn't cutting it, don't fire them immediately.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Did the BBC and not Video kill the Radio Star?

Hayden's note:
I'm extremely please to have a guest posting this Monday morning, from Marc Ames, who is my friend and colleague at Ideal Interface.

I am sure that many of you in the UK were like me and the first thing you did every morning last week was check what the weather was like, and then put the television on and switched on the computer to check for weather forecasts and websites to see whether you would be able to make it into work or whether the kids’ schools were closed.

However, if you go back twenty five years ago then when the snow arrived everyone would be switching on to their local radio station – when the web was but a twinkle in Tim Berner-Lee’s eye and breakfast TV was still in its infancy.

As well as the wintry weather, last week saw the National Audit Office release a report commissioned by the BBC Trust into the efficiency of BBC Radio’s output.

Now in the style of the BBC television’s daytime output, how much do you think that the BBC spent on radio in 2007-08? Who will start me with £100m? £150m, £200m, £300m, £400m, £450m – and the final offer is £462m – 14% of the licence fee!

This covers the costs of the 10 network stations that broadcast UK wide (Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 et al) and the six national stations, two each for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It does not include the costs for running the 40 English regional stations.

So faced with that backing who would want to be a commercial radio operator? With the advent of the internet, the iPod, multi-channel TV, mobile phones, which sees advertising revenues fragmented further and companies demanding better evaluation for their £s – and yet radio has the most antiquated and archaic audience measurement tool – the RAJAR diary – which relies on people selected to fill in diaries about the times and stations they listen to.

When one diary can be the equivalent to thousands in audience, just to put into context about the research, I have been approached many times to take part in market research in towns or by phone, I have done jury service four times and yet I have never been approached to fill in a diary for RAJAR and I have never ever met anyone who has!

The industry has tried to grapple with this issue, especially as people now listen to radio stations online or on their mobile phone but have yet to resolve it.

Factor in the need for the radio industry to invest and pay for digital radio and yet one of the main areas for radio listening is in the car and the automobile industry have yet to commit building all new cars with digital radios and in the current climate this is not going to be high on their priorities then the future does not look bright. By the way, the BBC does not need to pay for carriage on any of the digital transmitters unlike their commercial rivals.

The relationship between OFCOM and commercial radio seems to be erratic, and that rather than moving with the times and creating a radio industry that is vibrant and strong, we have a media and a regulator that is struggling to cope with its place in a multi-channel market.

The irony is that if you listen to any commercial station these days, then two of the biggest advertisers are the Government’s COI and the local and regional councils.

Consolidation has been the word for many years in the industry and it now seems that within the next 12 – 18 months we will see the end game, with Global taking over GCap, Bauer taking over EMAP and some of the smaller radio groups are struggling or putting themselves up for sale, the heritage radio stations are or soon will become part of pseudo-national networks such as Smooth, Kiss and Magic.

So did the BBC indeed kill the radio star? As with all answers, there is not a simple yes or no. The problem lies in several areas, some of the commercial sector is poorly managed, and the regulator OFCOM has certainly not helped the industry move into the 21st century, for example, who else would think that a city the size of Bristol could sustain three commercial stations as well as BBC Bristol?

But the BBC has expanded and invested its output at a proliferate rate, unchecked by anyone and in filling in the vacuum created by the issues discussed above, may end up destroying most of its competition and indeed the media itself.


Marc Ames is an Online Marketing Consultant who is particularly interested in helping companies achieve maximum value from their online channels. His skills include: online marketing strategy, web site development, e-commerce, usability, search engine marketing, online advertising and media selection, e-mail marketing and affiliate marketing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

graphing online communities

I've mentioned several times that companies need to understand and even visual their Corporate Social Graph. However, how would you go-about visually reprsenting an online social network or community?

Those clever people over at Orgnet think they have the answer:

This diagram, looking more like a scientific / physics experiment, depicts three different ringed regions of blue, green and red nodes. This work (termed the 'field of social network analysis') also offers some useful insight about the connectivity of users
Node counts are important in social networks, but it's the relationships -- and the patterns they create -- that are key

Insightful stuff! If you want to get further insight, you'd better read the blog of Valdis Krebs (the Founder and Chief Scientist at at

Friday, February 6, 2009

Topman sends unfashionable email

I've previously mentioned other retailers who send out daft emails (such as Alto's confusing one back in December), so to not mention TopMan's latest email gaff wouldn't be fair...

The 'TopMan Stylemail' they sent out today, claims to have "the latest trends at your fingertips". Its therefore strange that this trendy tips and product email encourages you to buy its very latest offerings, but is dated last month... 6th January 2009? Ooops!

Facebook to use OpenID?

As the French would say "c'est non possible", but if rumours are true then Facebook has about-faced on its policy of not integrating with OpenID by joining the board of the OpenID Foundation.

Does this finally mean one standard for access and that open standards have won out over protectionism (Facebook Connect)?

Lets hope so!

Further update, this has been confrimed by Facebook's Mike Schroepfer in his developer blog posting: and said:
We opened Facebook Platform with a belief that community innovation can add value to users that we can't build on our own

IMHO this is a great stap forward for standards, the web and connectivity between sites!

As reported in the newspaper

Some newspaper funnies, as its Friday:

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, "We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used upduring the explosion that destroyed his house."
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing herItalian boyfriend.
(The Manchester Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, "This sort of thing is all too common".
(The Times)

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff.
(Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. "He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.'"
(Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meyers Briggs test your blog

For those bloggers who want a Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator psychometric test of their work, take a look at:

Apparently I am ISTJ (The Duty Filler):

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

And I can be depicted as follows:

Stop laughing, ISTJ not funny!

Never wrong for long

Happy Birthday to an innovative force in journalism and the TV channel of insomniacs...Sky News is 20 today.

No longer the teenager and now the grown-up, the 24 Hour UK news channel pioneered by Rupert Murdoch has come of age. Its also amazing to see how much TV news has come in the last 2 decades. Previously the news was dished out like my mother's cooking (at regular times during the day, in large portions I found hard to swallow all at once and often more palettable to the server than the target audience).

But now, its news on-the-go; almost drip-fed to the masses in small morsels, delivered constantly, sometimes with little attention paid to quality and with no time to think between servings. This approach often means that mistakes were made, but they are Never Wrong For Long!

However, it works and the format & pace been copied worldwide. Even the BBC followed-suit, albeit almost 8 years later, with their impressive BBC News 24 offering.

But what about the next 20 years?
Well...I do believe the future will be televised! We'll see the gradual convergence of Internet and Broadcast technologies, along with the user/viewer/consumer taking more of an active part.

Perhaps we will eventually see the appearance of 'Gargoyles' as predicted in the book Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. These are people permanently 'wired into the Metaverse' or in modern parlance: someone with a permanent Internet connection. They are a news agent who records everything around them and uploads this data (particularly audio/visual) for its use by agencies or other organisations. The idea being that they get paid for their news-worthy clips and therefore make their living by recording as much interesting stuff as possible.

Strange? Perhaps. But not impossible!

I'm feeling gloomy

Its hardly suprising... given that the UK is the 10th 'most gloomiest' country right now, according to Business Week:

However, a small ray of sunshine was demonstrated to me last weekend, when I was spending time with Ian, a friend of mine who runs the Lone Star comedy club in Folkestone Kent (Note: What a wonderful website that is ). His regular monthly comedy night was a complete sell-out and what does he put it down to?
"Its the recession! People are down about the economy and need cheering up"
At least they're not depressed... like the World apparently is:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The political social graph

I just love the Flash application from, that shows key US Political figures and their key relationships. People with their own political social graph include:

Barack Obama

George W Bush:

Gordon Brown:

Not only does this show a relationship between people, it also shows the documents (news articles, postings, etc.) that link them! There's more to investigate on this website I feel....

Adverts now target YouTube audience

TV is getting more and more aware that Internet advertising is eating its lunch (Online Marketing spend is now second behind TV and now ahead of Newspaper, Radio and other main-stream media).

But you can't help but feel that recent TV adverts such as those done by T-Mobile or Cadbury's (see below) have been done as-much for their online viral capacity as for their immediate viewing impact.

Barclaycard have now gone one step further and set up a competiton for people to create their own advert, based upon the very popular (and memorable) 'waterslide' campaign.

Rather than YouTube being a Parasite, could it be that TV adverts developed for an online / multi-channel audience are the saviour of the commercial TV networks?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

T-Mobile and the buzz

Those who are not from these shores ("what shores?" I hear you ask, "a pint please" is my reply), will not have seen the flash-mob-dancers of the T-Mobile TV advert that is costing the mobile telco a fortune right now.

If you haven't seen it (or if T-Mobile haven't already copied the format to another country), take a look here:

So? What makes this campaign so interesting? Well its getting a lot of very positive mentions online, e.g. on Twitter:

There's even a YouTube tutorial video of how to do the dance:

Why screen scraping is wrong

I've recieved a few emails following my recent post about screen scraping. Its my belief that nearly all websites that publish large amounts of data/information suffer from this at some point, so its not suprising its turned out to be a fairly popular subject.

Here's my thought about why sites need to stop this activity:

  • Any user that steals your content, your hard work, your thoughts or the information you own without your permission is commiting theft. If you are charging access (subscription model) or have revenue based on views (advertising model) then this is affecting your ability to make revenue. Some markets (e.g. travel) are affected more. say:
    ... it's not uncommon that over seven percent of the ticket sales of a low fare
    air line comes from scraper sites.
  • Once this content is saved somewhere else beyond your control, it can be out of date. Anyone accessing the 'scraped' information' and then coming to your site may get different information and therefore be dissappointed.

  • The scraping of content (particularly automated scraping by scripts & robots) adds additional load to your website. This may affect other users (e.g. the site may be slower for them) or cost you more (bandwidth, hosting, etc.).

Monday, February 2, 2009

The return of Woolworths

It seems the passing comment from Patrick Altoft at the end of November may have been heard..and the website of 100 year old & failed retailer Woolworths looks like making a suprise re-appearance to our browsers in the Summer.

Yes, that's right. The shops may be shut now and the land sold to Icelandic Venture Capitalists, Russian football club owners and Ponzi Scheme managers, but the website looks like it will live once more if this story in The Times is correct:
(Note to self: How can I read a story online with a publish date of 3rd February if today's the 2nd?)

They have already put a simple form up on to ask people what they liked and disliked about Woolworths, with the openning line:
We've got high hopes and big ideas for the Woolworths we want to bring back to you!

.. lets hope that haven't taken Mr Altoft's comment literally that...
They would be better setting up an affiliate link to Amazon.

Wired UK Magazine - When will it arrive?

In the middle of last year, I was very glad to hear that Wired Magazine was planning on relaunching in the UK. (For those who didn't know it had been here already, it originally launched in 1995 and closed a few years later by Conde Nast).

But since the publishing of a few articles (e.g. here in Digital Lifecycles) announcing it re-birth we've heard relatively little more about it ... until now.
An article in Press Gazette says that it will arrive on newstands (and online) on 2nd April 2009:

(Note: Potentially still edited by David Rowan and the digital version by Holden Frith from the Times Online)

Well... lets hope this is correct and that it's the grown-up technology magazine we started reading back 14 years ago.. and doesn't instantly lose paper like its USA cousin reportedly has.

Oh, one final note:
You'd have thought they would at least have put something up on, even a link through to UK-specific articles on would have helped. (They do own the domain)