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July 04, 2008

Will Web 2.0 = Media 2.0?

Will Web 2.0 = Media 2.0?

Eye


Introduction

The new AS Media studies textbook from Hodder exemplifies the danger of being too euphoric about developments on the internet. There is no doubt about the importance of UGC (user generated content) etc. However, if it is really going to become a 'new model of media' rather than the digital equivalent of lots of teenagers chatting on phones and starting up their own smalltime rock band largely for pleasure then a massive change is required.  Currently there is much fantasy about 'making it big' -see The Frustrating Chase of the Long Tail - and it is dangerous to equate numbers of users with the creation of profits which is what media is primarily about. The core issue is how to 'monetise' all these communications. Otherwise all those venture capitalists who have invested in MySpace, Facebook and Second Life etc will withdraw their money. Tom Hodgkinson from the Guardian explores the dirty venture capitalist secrets behind Facebook:

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel.


It would be the utmost näivety to think that these social networking sites aren't in it because of the hope of building up some momentum and offering the promise of profits to be made from a large set of audience/creator.

Inevitably this means advertising, and the best advertising goes to the best sites! For that reason the large media companies have developed thier own websites which are well placed in search engines and have professional writers with high levels of expertise writing for them. In other words at the end of the day 'content is king' backed up by high quality SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The growth of "widget culture" on social networking sites is examined by the Financial Times below for example. It shows how the fantasies of wannabee internet entrepreneures are collapsing into the realities. 

The notion of Media Studies 2.0 based upon a utopian vision of user/creator is almost certainly a fantasy at least as far as offering a serious challenge to the status quo is concerned as the comments upon subsumption below argue compared to a speculative optimism expressed by Gauntlett:

Conventional concerns with power and politics are reworked in recognition of these points, so that the notion of super-powerful media industries invading the minds of a relatively passive population is compelled to recognise and address the context of more widespread creation and participation. (Gauntlett).

.Anybody who is successful through their own blog etc is likely to be contracted to a larger company in the longer term. This is simply because there are inordinate amounts of energy required to keep these things updated and managed so that search engines give the site a high ranking. Without this high ranking neither high value advertising nor audiences are attracted. Inevitably this is a disincentive to develop longer-term. Newer forms of social media, once they settle, will become proving grounds and recruiting grounds for larger media organisations.  A quick Google of the search term Media 2.0 is mainly about advertising. Gauntlett himself mentions it in his theory.org article providing a link to the Media 2.0 Workgroup. Check it out!


Cold Water on Widget Millionaire Fantasists

cold Water


The Financial Times (27 / 05 / 08) did a useful analysis of the development of the newly developing Widget industry in relation to Facebook and gives some fuel to those who are sceptical about hyped up internet utopian junkies:  

The wave of "social media" companies that has arisen since the middle of this decade, many of them characterised by user-generated content and new forms of communications, has changed the way millions of people interact and entertain themselves online. Yet, by their nature, these new forms of behaviour are proving extremely difficult to turn into hard cash.

The reality is that investors are not interested in providing platforms for millions of people unless healthy profits can be generated from these. Rupert Murdoch's investment in MySpace was tiny in terms of the size of News International. One can compare the extraordinary financial risks taken by Murdoch on developing Sky when it first started. The whole of News International was on the line. It was the biggest business gamble of Murdoch's career albeit with a very good idea that it would eventually become successful.

For the Murdoch organisation MySpace is an experiment just as the website of the Wall Street Journal is. A recent Media Gaurdian interview with Tom Anderson the co-founder of MySpace has shown how MySpace has always made money. Currently critics can only complain that it isn't making Murdoch buckets of money. However plans are afoot to redesign MySpace and fend off the challenge of Facebook which makes far less money as MySpace has got dominance in the US market which is where most of the online advertising takes place. The excellent cogapp blog which I have just discovered has a very good article on Media, Money and Metrics for example. Here you can quickly start to see how big media is responding to the growth of the online video sites for example.


The FT reporters Chris Nuttall and Richard Waters, in a discussion with Mike Maples - who runs a micro-cap fund whose investments include Twitter, a micro-blogging site, and Digg, a news aggregator summarise Maples' comments:

It is only natural, he adds, that the winners in this race for audience attention will end up with "mass adoption and user attention before you necessarily recognise where the revenue comes from".

It is worth noting their scepticism born of long experience:

That was the thinking behind a few winners - and many losers - from the first generation of consumer dotcoms at the end of the 1990s. Something similar looks in store for Web 2.0.

If there is going to be a successful "Media 2" model created in which large media companies create platforms such as social networking sites which are going to offer payback then the secret is going to be creating an advertising model that is suitable for this format. Remember Advertising is a key aspect of Media Studies! Right now -as the FT points out there is a disconnect between social media and advertising. It won't last long:


Social media is ahead of the capacity of the advertisers to take advantage of it," says Mr Price at Widgetbox. The standardised units of advertising and methods of measurement needed for this medium have yet to be developed, he adds. "Real spend has been held hostage by that lack of analytics and what we've been relegated to is fighting for experimental budgets that don't require clear proof of value. (My emphasis. Nuttall & WatersThe Financial Times (27 / 05 / 08))

New Forms of Media Research?

Gauntlett suggests that:

Conventional research methods are replaced - or at least supplemented - by new methods which recognise and make use of people's own creativity, and brush aside the outmoded notions of 'receiver' audiences and elite 'producers'

Whilst qualitative research will continue to be important in the study of emergent online and even online / offline subcultures whether the online environment will generate any more creativity than already existed in the realm of amateur photography, home movies / videos etc is debateable, that it has a greater reach isn't debateable. Clearly the possibility to reach a global audience is significantly different at a structural level however the organisation of search will act as a creative blocker as large companies who invest in SEO will predominate in the top pages of a Google.

Subsumption and Social / Alternative Media

What appears to have been forgotten by those promoting notions of 'Media Studies 2.0' is firstly the ethnographic research which has been done into audiences via cultural studies which explored many subcultures into which micro-media production falls. The other thing which cultural studies did effectively was to promote the term subsumption. Here we can take subsumption to mean the gradual takeover and absorbtion of those things that were once radical. We can conceive of this as being part of a dialectical process (where there are contradictions which create a third thing thesis / antithesis = synthesis) of hegemony (old centralised pretty undemocratic mass media) versus a counter-hegemony (new decentralised media forms often associated with youth and new technologies). The hegemonic processes gradually takeover control of the new processes when it can be seen that they can be made to create new markets and in media terms new audiences. Here it is a considerable advantage to old media who have brought up user-generated content platforms because they are in a win-win situation. They are not paying for the content or those who provide the content.

As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have argued in their Empire, American neo-Roman imperialism works by a constant subsumption and inclusion of "others," such that difference is apparently welcomed, yet actually subordinated to an unremitting uniformity.

Media 2.0 is the development of new media platforms which once the models have been developed can sell advertising at a high price at very low cost. It makes so-called reality TV content look expensive! The very best content providers as evidence by the ability to generate advertising revenue will become contracted by Media 1 (in Gauntlett jargon).  

There have always been alternative forms of media around which appeal to small audiences, make little or no money and are by and large by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. These have at various times been political and cultural. It is rare that they last very long, either because of finance and lack of interest or because the individuals involved 'fall out'. The fragemnted audience of Web 2.0 are likely go the same way.

Once the Hype around Media Studies 2.0, Web 2.0 (We are already looking at Web 3.0 anyway) and Media 2.0 we can see that as Visconti's The Lepoard puts so well that "Everything Must change so that Everything Stays the Same". The reality is that Big Media will remain big media even if forms change. Onbe need go no further than a study of Rupert Murdoch's Take over of MySpace at one end of the specturm and the Wall Street Journal at the other working on different models of web-based revenue generation to recognise that.  This has led other organisations such as the Financial Times to rethink their approach. In the light of thises comments Gauntlett's comments on big media look a little presumptuous:

Conventional concerns with power and politics are reworked in recognition of these points, so that the notion of super-powerful media industries invading the minds of a relatively passive population is compelled to recognise and address the context of more widespread creation and participation

A point by point discussion of Gauntlett's suggestions will be continued in another posting. Hopefully enough of a challenge has been established here to stop people falling into this attractive discourse in a complacent way. One key issue in all of this needs to a political economic approach which questions whther the underlying social and economoc relations of society are going to be fundamentally changed in terms of wealth and power.

Webliography

Guardian Interview with Chris deWolfe Cofounder of MySpace

Guardian on Wall Street Journal Website Access model

Media Studies 2.0 forum Merrin

Blog on William Merrin Visit to Royal Holloway "New Political Communication Unit"

Media 2.0 Theory.org by Gauntlett

Chris Anderson. The Long Tail in Wired

Kinoeye Web 2.0: Cultural Diversity, Adverts & The Long Tail

Feminism and Women's Studies. Discussion about subsumption.

Media Studies 2.0? Binge Drinking and Why Audiences Still Matter

Stunlaw Response on Media Studies 2.0

Cogapp Media 2.0 Blog Team. This looks to be a very interesting space and comes stongly recommended as they seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is happening.

Clicks and links will bring all the walls tumbling down. Jeff Jarvis in the Guardian Sept 2007.


April 18, 2008

Google 2008 Advertising Results

Google shrugs off ad sales fear

See BBC Business for full report

Google Image

For the first time, the California-based firm earned more revenue abroad - 51% of total sales - compared to its home market. This was partly due to a slump in the weak dollar which increases the value of non-US earnings.

Shares in Google, the darling of the technology sector in 2007, saw its shares reach a peak of $741.80 in November last year, making it the fifth biggest US company by market capitalisation.

But since then, its shares have been hammered on worries that it faced an advertising slump amid mounting evidence that the US is slipping into a recession.

Clicks on Google's sponsored links in the US slowed from a growth rate of 25% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 1.8% in the first quarter of this year, according to comScore.

Google's Change of Adverstising Tactics

But its upbeat results suggest the reason for this reflects a deliberate reduction in the number of ads on each search results page to deliver to advertisers better matched visitors who are more likely to buy their products.

What's Happening to Google's Competition?

Yahoo is desparately looking at ways to escape being bought by Microsoft.  As a result it has even even teamed up with arch-rival Google in a two-week experiment which will see search-driven Google adverts alongside the search results of Yahoo's website.

US SEARCH MARKET SHARE
Google: 59.8%
Yahoo: 21.3%ut
Microsoft: 9.4%
AOL: 4.8%
Source: comScore March figure

From these figures which summarise the search engine market in early 2008 it is clear that the Microsoft bid for Yahoo is a very sensible one. Yahoo is gradually losing market share to Google. It desperately needs to get this market back but Microsoft which started trying to take-over Yahoo nearly 2 years ago should be confident that it is doing the right thing. Certainly there is no clear evidence that Yahoo has the capability to win back users from Google.  

Google and the British Advertising Market Place  

Extract below from Rory Cephlan-Jones the BBC Technology Correspondent:

And what are most of the eager young Googlers doing? Selling advertising or talking to Britain's biggest brands about how they can move more of their marketing budget online. Because it's easy to forget that as well as being an extraordinarily innovative firm, Google is also rapidly becoming Britain's biggest advertising business. The latest figures - released on Thursday evening - show how rapidly it is growing in the UK, earning $803 million( about £407m) in the first three months of 2008, about 40% up on a year ago.

Let's put that into context. Last year, ITV's net advertising revenue was £1.5 billion. So, even if you just multiply Google's earnings by four and assume no further growth this year, Britain's biggest commercial television business - the original "licence to print money" - is about to be overtaken by an American upstart which only arrived in the UK in 2001. You could not ask for a starker example of the threat to traditional media from the online world. (Emphasis added)


January 30, 2008

iPhone Bows to Winds of Recession

iPhone Bows to Winds of Recession

iphone_apple_logo.jpg

Who is going to be tempted by this little offer ?

Better deals for UK users of Apple's iPhone are being launched as operator O2 overhauls tariffs less than three months after the mobile hit the stores.

The lowest £35 monthly tariff is to offer about three times as many texts and minutes, while the current £55 deal will be cut to £45 from Friday.

In the US only two months after the iPhone's launch in July Apple slashed the price.  Obviously you don't this when sales are steaming ahead! Nevertheless  Apple tried to put a good face on the situation by announcing that it had sold one million iPhones keeping ahead of its target date of the end of September. 

The same thing is happening in Britain. Sales are obviously slowing fast after the busy Xmas period as the credit card bills come in and houses continue to decrease in value. O2 tried to put a good face on the situation according to the BBC: 

Sally Cowdry, O2 UK marketing director, said: "The iPhone is already our fastest ever selling device and this added value will allow us to appeal to an even greater segment of the market - it is an unbeatable proposition."

Just hang on what is this "added value"? Loads more texting? The people good at texting are my students: behind their backs, blindfolded, under the tables naturally they will all be rushing out to spend £280 to get more texts.....

People texting

Looks like iPhone is the top texting mobile !  

January 29, 2008

Music Industry Protectionism Stopped in its Tracks

Music Industry Protectionism Stopped in its Tracks

BBC CD Image

Excellent news for those concerned with the protection of privacy in a contemporary information society which everyday is developing into "surveillance society". The BBC reports that the EU's Court of Human Justice have ruled against a case brought by the Spanish music compan.

Internet service providers do not have to divulge the names of users suspected of illegally sharing music files, Europe's top court has ruled....
In rejecting the complaint of Spanish trade body Promusicae, the court sided with Spain's largest telecoms group, Telefonica.

Quite right too! The incursions of rabid commercialism have already gone far too far. The music industry has brought this crisis upon itself being the only media industry that has been prepared to condemn almost everybody who listens to music as a "pirate" quite frankly nobody beyond the music industry has ever taken its ludicrous cliams seriously. The reality is large international drugs companies who are usually accused of charging ludicrous prices for new drugs hqave a better case. They cannot protect their patents for very long before the generic drug companies are allowed to produce their own versions. By comparison purveyors of feuilltons are able to copyright these artefacts for decades. No wonder nobody takes this copyright stuff very seriously. Maybe architects and bricklayers should get paid for intellectual labour everytime someone opens the front door! The essence of popular musci which is what we are largely talking about is its immediacy, its sense of Zeitgeist. Try and control it too long and the underlying spectre of the real zeitgeist - commercialism- comes to the fore. 

It's a commercial Zeitgeist which is underpinned by the whingeing of the U2 manager Paul McGuiness:

The manager of rock band U2 has urged internet service providers (ISPs) to help end illegal music downloads, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Manager of rock dinosaurs U2 emulates Dinosaurus Metallicus

Just as Metallica were the music industry stooges in the battle against Napster so Paul McGuiness has decided to emulate this exersise in defacating upon naive fans. As the Financial Times reports McGuiness launched a tirade against ISPs and companies like Microsoft at the Midem rock music get togther in France. Naturally it was timed to conincide with the European Court of Justice ruling in a shameful attempt to try and influence natural justice commenting:

that they (the industry) had concerned themselves for too long with the small fries who organised illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing on the internet.

Desparately Seeking a Revenue Model (For the Champagne Lifestyle)

McGuigan suggested that there could be a productive partnership with ISPs in the future.

“For me the business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription service and the revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners,” he said.

Of course you would have to buy into his ridiculous analogy of internet service providers being in some way responsible for spawning nations of thieves. Telecommunications lines, shipping lanes, roads and motorways are all arteries and those who build and maintain them  aren't responsible for the myriad of different agendas of the people who use them. I strongly suspect that many of the people in that conference have partaken in serious amounts of drugs around thier arterial highways. Drugs which are probably illegal in most countries and they would be the first to complain about having their pockets and luggage turned out or being under continuous surveillance yet they want this to be done to millions of ordinary people out of pure greed. 

The reality is most people think that musicians should be paid a reasonable amount of money but baulk at being ripped off by the industry which is more interested in profits than diversity. Why should they pay for this:

Normally, business at Midem is conducted from yacht to yacht, but seasoned veterans of the industry’s most prolonged schmooze have already detected a certain restraint in spending this year. Maybe it can be laid at the door of EMI. When Guy Hands of Terra Firma first gained entrance to the venerable institution, he declared it a mountain of waste. (Ben Fenton)

Webliography

U2 manager urges ISPs to help fight web piracy.By Ben Fenton in Cannes. Published: January 28 2008 22:45 | Last updated: January 28 2008 22:45

FT on Qtrax


January 28, 2008

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

There is no doubt that online piracy and file-sharing has decimated the recorded music industry, which has been struggling to find an alternative business model in order to meaningfully survive. Interstingly the Jazz and Classical markets appear to be less affected when it comes to downloading. Usually the audiences are olde, better off and fussier about the music quality. Currently there are few sites that allow customers to download music files which provide even the equivalent quality to CDs. Linn the hi-fi company is one of the few. It can even offer studio quality masters at a price. 

Global Music sales in 2007 fall by 10%

Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis helped boost online music downloads
Global music sales fell by an estimated 10% last year, despite the growing popularity of the digital music market, according to an industry report. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said. This is despite the fact that music downloads rose by 40% in 2007.  

The organisation blames music piracy for the shortfall. It is calling on internet providers to disconnect people who repeatedly download illegally.

The (Music) Empire Fights Back  

Today was meant to see the launch of Qtrax which is an online only site which is going to allow visitors to listen to any of up to 30 million trqacks perfectly legally. This content would be paid for by advertising. Before every track ordered can be listened to the listener must undergo a barrage of advertising. Qtrax claim to have got the support of all the big four record companies:

But Warner, EMI and Universal all say they have not licensed their music. (BBC article)

Qtrax screen

Despite the hype Qtrax failed to meet its great opening on the announced day. checking it site today only got a beta version as announced in its logo.  There is a lot of opposition out there not least from Apple who do not wish Qtrax to become compatible with its iPods.

Qtrax Logo

More online shopping for music: not all deals are "good deals"!

Amazon has announced the international rollout of its digital music store. Already operating in the US customers can download music without any digital copying protection. Soon millions of songs will be sold without Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, allowing - for example - customers to burn their own CDs freely. Amazon says it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s for the four major record labels as well as thousands of independent record labels.  However this offers no real advantage over buying a CD  and has the disadvantage of  being recorded at a lower level of quality than a CD.

How far are the Music Industry's "Problems" of its own making? 

Perhaps the music industry needs an even more radical overhaul than just finding alternative models of making as much profit out of music as before. We have now entered the era of user generated content. Very high quality recodings of  music can be made relatively cheaply as the price of sophisticated recording technology continues to drop. But with most music downloads being listened to on inferior sound systems there seems to be little point in making huge efforts to provide such high quality original sound and "adding value" i.e. trying to put up the profit margin. People quite literally aren't buying into it. Sell a lot more music a lot more cheaply and have more bands working and cut out the super star celebrity bit. Instead lets just get back to the music and the culture that surrounds that music. 

The music industry has for decades being accusing the very people it relies upon for its existence as being 'pirates' or thieves. If people weren't feeling so ripped off and if music was sold at a fair price then it wouldn't be a problem.  Popular music by its very nature is ephemeral it belongs to the moment it is part of the Zeitgeist. Making more of it more available as the Zeitgeist moves would help profit, help the industry and provide audiences with what they want. The Music industry has failed the great test of all media enterprises: keep your audiences happy. what the media consumers are regualrly being accussed of thievery?

The shake up at EMI promises to cut a lot of the fat out of the music industry, it will be leaner, fitter and all the better for it, but it is still at its heart a celebrity / star model of music selling.

Branded Bands?

15 Jan 2008 - Could EMI's latest idea to get specific sponsorship for bands change the face of music in the future?The new boss of EMI, Guy Hands, has announced job losses of up to two thousand which is about aiming to save the label £200m a year. EMI was taken over by the private equity firm, Terra Firma, last summer but this new development about sponsorship suggests brands could become more involved with music. (My emphasis BBC)

Webliography

(Sorry this is work in progress at present)



January 23, 2008

Blast from The Last.fm

Blast from the Last.fm

Last FM

Could this be "the one" which finally cracks pirate downloading, gives audiences what they want, makes money for the provider and manages to pay the musicians as well?

Sound too good to be true well it might be but the news released by Last.fm today promises to be the first of several large companies coming to market with similar promises. what is the secret formula, there isn't one I'm afraid it is merely yet more advertising being driven onto the web. In this sense much of the web is going to driven by the advertising monster. The underlying question is rapidly becoming what is the future of Public Service Broadcasting / multicasting in this dawning age of user generated content and 'free' lots of media goodies primarily driven by advertising.  

Last.fm

Richard Jones, one of Last fm's three founders, told the BBC:

The way people consume music is changing - sometimes you just want to listen to it there and then.

Jones made this comment after it was revealed that rather than being able to download the music onto their computers consumers would be able to listen to the same track up to threee times thereafter they would be encouraged to pay for ti via iTunes or a similar servicve. Of course whether this change in useage away from an ownership model albeit usually 'illegal' will happen is yet to be proved.  However as well as avoiding the risk of being busted consumers face get all sorts of junk onto their computers through file sharing and viruses can abound on sites like Limewire. Free music paid for with banner adverts on the Las.fm site seems like a small price to pay instead of having your computer messed up and your data hacked.

Now I'm no expert on Limewire I'm just going on what my highly experienced students say however a quick Google turned up this scary video on YouTube. Limewire seems to be a sort of 'Hacking Into People's Private Data for Dummies'. In other words you are advised not to bother with it. (It could of course be a conspiracy by the record companies - well you pays yer money [or not] and yer makes yer choice!!). Anyway take a look:

Who are Last.fm? 

Last.fm, founded in London in 2002, was bought by the American media giant CBS last year for $280m (£143m).

Social music site Last.fm has been bought by US media giant CBS Corporation for $280m (£140m), the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition. (Original BBC Story from 2007.There is a video available on this link as well.)

Mr Stiksel one of the foundusic downloading on phones ing members of Last FM and part of the management team which is being left largely untouched by CBS announced an extraordinarily ambitious plan unprecedented in its aims:

This move will really support us to get every track ever recorded and every music video ever made onto Last.fm.

As an institution CBS radio is the largest radio group in the United States, with 179 stations in the top 50 markets covering news, rock, country and urban music.

Who are the Competition?

Mobile Music Japan

Mobile Music Downloads in the phone subscription the way forward?

Well seemingly the lions are coming out of their dens and the big players are entering into the market. Music downloading on phones is becoming increasing increasingly popular. whilst CD sales losses are increasing and not being replaced by legal downloading Japan is proving the exception which change the ruiles. Digital music sales in Japan are sufficient to offset the loss made by CDs. In fact, Japan saw a 1% rise in music sales last year. Industry observers attribute this rise to mobile music downloads:

"When you look at advanced markets like Japan, most digital music is already being consumed via mobile phones," said Rob Wells, senior vice president of digital music at Universal.

According to the BBC Nokia is currently planning a subscription service which allows users to keep the music they have purchased after the subscription has expired. So far they only have a confirmed content deal with Universal Music but say they are in discussions with the other major record labels.

Where Is it All Going  

Certainly at the moment it isn't clear what the dominant model of music will be but from the perspective of the audience we are moving ever closer to a massive amount of legal or very cheap music for nothing.  


January 19, 2008

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

It is difficult to avoid a feeling of Schadenfreude as one looks at the sales figures of the Apple iPhone since its UK release and faiure to reach the projected sales forecasts of 200,000. One might think that selling 190,000 was pretty good going as they cost about £280 quids and you have to take out not a 12 month but an 18 month contract at £35 per month. Well the latter fee used to be not so bad but now prices have dropped considerably. The fact of the matter is that Jobs launched the iPhone into the gathering storm of an economic recession and the reality is that the aspirants buying into designer this that and the other are going to suddenly think twice about these expenses as other things suddenly become a priority.

Jobs has already had to drop the price of the iPhone in the USA quite soon after its launch and today's FT reports that some analysts are expecting the same to happen in the UK:

Some analysts, who had regarded the original 200,000 prediction as a conservative estimate, said Apple might have to cut the price in the UK if it wanted to maintain sales momentum. The iPhone’s headline price is £269, but customers must also take out an 18-month contract starting at £35 a month, meaning a minimum outlay of £899. (My emphasis)

iPhone Launch Jaunuary CES 2007

Look out for some appearing in TK Maxx if the recession really bites!

In the US, 10 weeks after its launch, Apple cut the iPhone’s headline price from $599 to $399, which angered customers who had bought the handset. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, subsequently apologised. On Tuesday, he said 4m iPhones had been sold worldwide. (ibid) 

As the FT points out Apple is facing the fact that mobile operators in both the UK and the US subsidies the handsets and claw back the costs through the subscriptions or relatively highly priced pay as you go calls.  

If you thought touchscreen is where it is at then check this out coming fairly soon near you (maybe): 

Nokia has also developed an interface method that doesn’t even require you to touch the screen where the phone reacts to hand gestures made in three dimensional space and can even track the movement of your hand. (From Pocket Picks)

In the meantime you will just have to suffer with these Nokias the excitingly named N81 and N82: 

Nokia N81  N82

The box says they do this lot which is a pretty good scorer on the convergence front:

The 140g N81 is an 8GB music phone with wi-fi, HDSPA, quad-band, 2MP camera, Bluetooth stereo, 3.5mm headphone jack, 16 million colour 240 x 320 pixel screen and dedicated music and gaming keys. Word from the Guru is that this will be one of the N-Gage Gaming Platform launch handsets. The 120g N82 takes all that and adds TV-out, GPS functionality, FM radio, a microSD slot, and raises the game with an N95-matching five-megapixel camera then bungs a xenon flash on top of all that. (ibid)

Customer Choice: The Nokia Nobrainer or the iPod Nano?

Well 8 gb is as much as an iPod Nano with a few other gizmos thrown in - like making a phone call.  Unlike the state of the market when Apple stormed the MP3 downloading market with the iPod the mobile phones is a sophisticated and hig hly competitive market with a lot of very experienced operators. It appears that Nokia's fight back for the premium phone market is going to be based around a very new model of consumption which involves free music downloading from a choice of around 2 million 'tunes'. You will be able to keep the music even if you drop the contract. This might not only hit iPhone below the waterline it could significantly effect iTunes itself. A quick trip to the Nokia site I couldn't find any Nokia phones which supported iTunes.

Phone for Internet Junkies from 2007

Now with upgrade 

Forthcoming Nokia N800

Phone for the YouTubers

Sounds like this Motorola has plenty of appeal for the budding film director promising instant uploading to YouTube:

Motorola Z10 Movie Phone

...the ‘mobile film studio’ aspect comes from the phone having the ability to let you instantly upload photos and videos to YouTube, Google, Yahoo and Shozu. So it’s not quite a proper ‘film studio’ but its still an appealing new handset.

That might mean Apple have to go back to their origins and try and flog computers, the trouble is Microsoft seem to have pretty much caught up.... (aside: well got to say something controversial it is a blog after all).  


January 18, 2008

Can We Escape Facebook Stories Right Now?

Can We Escape Facebook Stories Right Now? (or Facebook even?)


Fabook Eye


Whatever else it is, Facebook has become the thing to discuss almost everywhere. With social networking sites taking the teen generation by storm - most of my students at thiws level subscribe to at least two- social networking is a social phenomena that seems set to stay and develop. Those who laughed at Rupert Murdoch for investing in MySpace are certainly laughing on the other side of their face by now. I have to say here the delightful naivety of those teens who subscribe to MySpace and think that "Tom" is the owner makes it worth teaching media studies as the surprised faces realise that they are subsribing to the business empire that owns The Sun and yes The Times. But I digress because the new enemy on the block perhaps far more unpleasant than the right wing anti-BBC stance of Murdoch are the hard-core youngish neo-conservatives who really own Facebook exposed by Tom Hodgkinson in the Guardian earlier this week whilst today the BBC has posted a story on the dangers around privacy concerning Facebook.  


Is Facebook Providing a Challenge to Alternative Systems?


...you could have a Facebook account, and I suspect that this swamps number 1 or 2.  For social networking within the academic community, Facebook is all-conquering, and we observe a startling number of students who have a Facebook account before they arrive or get one soon after they start. And if you already have a Facebook account then it's not immediately obvious that you need another place to write about what you're doing, or another place to share your photos (hence the precipitous drop in the number of photos uploaded; they've all gone into Facebook instead).


With social networking being the new media phenomenon of the moment with every teenager wishing to have 'creds' subscribing to at least one (and often more) social networking accounts, and with Facebook specifically being the 'flavour of the month' traffic and enthusiasm for the less measured sort of social interactions on some other sites may be being reduced. The above quotation from a discussion on Warwick Blogs being a case in point.

Facebook along with other more established social networking sites are excellent examples of 'New Media' institutions becoming established. Either, as in the case of My Space (courtesy Rupert Murdoch), being owned by  rapcious established entrepreneurs or as in the case of Facebook by rapacious new entrepreneurs. The key shift in media provision by the owners is the relaince upon User Generated Content to allow everybody participating in one of these media environments to gossip about each other. It saves employing gossip columnists aprt from anything else. 

As social networking develops and matures it may well be that certain audiences start to move to different social networks which have a different demographic base. Facebook has clearly developed a target audience significantly different to Bebo. If this  continues to develop then  the advertising core behind these sites will start to become more social network site specific. Arguably there is a shift of Lifestyle magazines onto the net with the added advantage for the owners that they pay little or nothing for content provided by the users instead. (Here the net effect of the net is to increasingly push responsibility towards the users - think banking - and provide an environment). Perhaps social networking sites will increasingly focus upon specific demographic factors but provide a global audience for these common factors. Thus social networking could start to provide a huge boost for social and cultural globalisation which has to date still been more of an economic phenomenon. 

Where is it all going?

For cultural studies this raises issues of continuing hybridisation which is something that is probably being researched already. This kind of thing is likely to move into 3D virtual world's as they develop beyond the R & D stage into full media environments.  

Personally I have little doubt that an increasing amount of shopping for a variety of goods will move into virtual 3D environments such as Second Life. This will require a much more efficient broadband infrastructure than currently exists. This week's Economist has written a useful comparative article on the development broadband networks and useage in the World's more developed countries. 

Economist on Broadband


Easy access to cheap, fast internet services has become a facilitator of economic growth and a measure of economic performance. No wonder, then, that statistics show a surge in broadband use, especially in places that are already prosperous. The OECD, a rich-country club, says the number of subscribers in its 30 members was 221m last June—a 24% leap over a year earlier. But it is not always the most powerful economies that are most wired. In Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, over 30% of inhabitants have broadband. In America, by contrast, the proportion is 22%, only slightly above the OECD average of just under 20%. (Economist Jan 19th - 25th, 2008)

Oddly on this analysis the USA is going to have to get its act together in terms of communications infrastructure. social networking popularity is only a low level phase in the development of Web 2.0. The issue is the development of interesting online environments which large numbers of people are going to be comfortable with and 3D environments are going to be the places to be. whilst some will be fantasy areas there will be a lot which are more like mirrors of the everyday in which leisure, value added services and business transactions will take place. 

Of course one set of statistics only gives a very narrow framing of what is happening. As the US has the largest population in the above table then there are presumably a larger number of subscibers hence the mass customer / audience base to encourage future developments.  The BBC story on the Broadband digital divide is relevant here. Given the high cost of installing cabling networks clearly cities are going to become well served. In america with huge areas relatively sparsely populated there could be serious social divisons based around access opening up - to add to the other ones. Interstingly pysically small but quite dense populations such as Denmark and the Netherlands with a more social democratic committment to service provision to citizens are likely to gain significantly from high speed broadband development. No accident that they are already the countries which are most developed in this respect. 


The Net Effect 

One can only be speculative at this stage and comment on emrgent trends. Currently social networking is new exciting and gobsmacking because people can suddenly publish something and find a global audience, until a very short time ago unimaginable for an individual. Now mainstream media will increasingly be developing environments now the user generated thing is becoming established. what sort of environments people will want isn't yet clear but the current phase of Facebook et al is probaly only temporary. The question is what will the Rupert Murdoch's profits from MySpace advertising be reinvested into: 2nd Life or something similar?  You can bet he is watching the audience data closely!

As for the infamous Facebook, well I buy into Hodgkinson's arguments. I thoroughly dislike the fact that they keep information about you and you can't cleanly unsubscribe. They are also very snotty if you do try and shut down an account. I advise my students to approach it very cautiously. They push  everything thay can to the limit in the search for audience and the corresponding advertising contracts, Beacon and now "Scrabulous" as minor entrepreneurs trade on other brands. 

As for information and data privacy this is a serious breach of human rights and thankfully regulation is catching up!

The investigation follows a complaint by a user of the social network who was unable to fully delete their profile even after terminating their account.


several reasons to join me on Warwick blogs and forget Facebook!


Social Graphs (Up date September 2008)

An advert which appeared next to this page about Social Graphs led me to check out the term. I discovered a useful article on the Facebook hype from the Economist last autumn which explained exactly how social networks such as Facebook didn't in fact add network value, unlike postal and telephone networks. The latter operate under something called Metcalf's Law. The article seems to bear out my scepticism for this phenomenon:


But unlike other networks, social networks lose value once they go beyond a certain size. “The value of a social network is defined not only by who's on it, but by who's excluded,” says Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley forecaster. Despite their name, therefore, they do not benefit from the network effect. Already, social networks such as “aSmallWorld”, an exclusive site for the rich and famous, are proliferating. Such networks recognise that people want to hobnob with a chosen few, not to be spammed by random friend-requests. (social Gragh-iti, The Economist Oct 17th 2007)

It comes as no surprise that the rich and powerful want exclusive social networks. Virtual reality appears to be mirroring social reality. Well who would have imagined that?


January 10, 2008

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

Well Sean Carton below has a thing or two to say about it with a raft of other elements before this final bullet-point whic is a powerful statement: 

Web 2.0 is about doing stuff on the Web that can't done in any other medium. Functionalities that have generated so much Web 2.0 hype are all things that wouldn't be possible without the Internet. Period. Much of Web 1.0 tried to shoehorn old media models into the new technology, often with bad or even disastrous results. All the bad thinking of the past decade or so revolved around the misperception that the Web is "like medium X, only different." The Web isn't TV with clicking. It isn't print with the ability to link and embed multimedia content. Podcasting isn't radio you can download. Sean Carton,

Webliography

BBC News: What is this thing called Web 2.0   

Guardian Web 2.0 Weekend Edition


January 09, 2008

2012: Going Digital

2012: Going Digital

Digital Al

Digital Al starting the digital rollout to 2012 in Whitehaven

There is no doubt that a lot of companies have got their eye on 2012 becuase in the UK at least this is going to be the year when a brave new world of digital abundance is launched. The opening up of high speed broadband networks offering high speed video downloading will probably change our concept of the mobile phone which is already turning into a mobile entertainments machine which occasionaly functions as a phone.  

This brave new world will be be ushered in by an Olympic fanfare which will provide instant real time content for what will by then be 5 or 6 G wireless telephony doutless played on an "iMulti" which will look like a Kleenex as it unfolds its super hi tech screen. It won't of course be able to keep up with the new broadband networks but it will be fast by today's standards.

In the meantime the devices that are about to become popular amongst the computer commuters is the ultra-mobile PC like the Toshiba one below which will give you a good experience of the Olympics live when on a bus or train or on the move, alternatively, you can play World of Warcraft or be in the depths of Second Life:

Toshiba Ultra-Mobile Laptop

about the size of a paperback book and equipped with the latest in wireless technology the best thing is to get a microheadset rather than earphones and you can have a phone as well.  Once the airwaves have been opened up in 2012 the cost of high speed wireless telephony is set to drop dramatically and we will go from a subscription based payments system to an advertising driven one. Of course some of us would like to see a larger license fee being paid to the BBC in order to be able to provide a service of this nature at very low cost without the price of advertising. The pusilanimous New Labour government has enforced cut-backs at the BBC despite its world beating record at delivering new digital servicesPublic Service Multicasting is an important issue in the unfolding new media age. 

Where Digits go Advertising Follows

As can be seen from the report summary below advertising futures is developing a 2012 strategy now. It's only four years away and planning and contract negotiation needs to be well under way already. Consultancies and policy research organisations like Jupiter see below are already working on this:

Executive Summary

The launches of Google's mobile search sponsored-links program and Blyk's ad-funded mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), combined with release of best-practices guidelines from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), highlight growing interest and hope generated by nascent mobile advertising revenues.

Key Questions

                    • Which audiences can marketers and advertisers target through nascent mobile media?

                    • How much revenue will mobile Internet advertising generate in 2012? (My emphasis on the question loads is the obvious answer!)

                    • Which tactics should mobile operators and media sellers deploy to foster advertisers' uptake of mobile marketing?

                    Wherever you are there's an advertiser waiting to pounce. Are people spending all this money to have great new communications technologies just to have it spoiled by continuous adverts? Support Public Service Multicasting now. Write to your MP and  show your dissatisfaction with the 'New' Labour treatment of the BBC!



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