Posts Tagged ‘dumb media’

Shoreditch’s sparkle leaves BBC presenter ‘tech-struck’

Friday, May 18th, 2012

fi_glover_tech_struck

“I haven’t felt so good having spoken to a businessman for ten minutes in about 25 years. That’s not normally how I feel! So thanks very much!”

And thanks to you, BBC presenter Fi Glover, for sharing the feel-good factor with us.

Glover was bringing the miracle of Shoreditch’s internet companies into the nation’s living rooms as part of a mission for Radio 4’s One to One slot. She had vowed to find out, in her words, “what do these tech-enabled business zoomers do”.

We learned that “while the rest of this country hangs onto the cliff face of economic prosperity by its fingernails, it seems that many of these internet-savvy people are right on top of the cliff, planting a flag”.

We need more flags on cliffs.

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Who killed ITV Digital?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

itvdigital_monkey

After 25 years of watching the Murdoch TV empire unfold, the battle plan to beat him should be fairly obvious. You buy the best content – the most popular sport and movies – and raise lots of capital, and make watching it easy. Then you dig in for a very long fight.

In other words, this is the entertainment-business-as-usual. Wannabe telly and radio empires have failed because they bought the wrong stuff, were inconvenient to use or because they were under-capitalised in the long run – and typically it’s a mixture of all three. Entertainment isn’t an essential utility. It’s a discretionary purchase for households, and the market doesn’t tolerate inconvenience or rubbish for long.

But when the tale involves Rupert Murdoch, people will always look for diabolical reasons for his success. The myth demands it. A fascinating BBC Panorama researched by Guardian reporter David Leigh may give supporters of this view plenty of ammunition. It was enthralling TV about the TV biz, and must have been an eye-opening for anyone not familiar with the decade-old telly crypto saga. But for those of us familiar with the details and the context, the smoking gun just isn’t there. Murdoch’s telly rivals would have gone down even if nobody had ever watched a single one of their programmes for free.

 

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Our ‘digital economy’ is still a circular firing squad

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The British ISP industry has spent a small fortune of its customers’ money fighting the people who would, in a saner world, be its business partners – only to suffer a crushing defeat. On Tuesday Lord Justice Richards threw out BT and TalkTalk’s judicial review against the 2010 Digital Economy Act.

Yet as trench warfare goes, they may consider it worth every penny.

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The angry internet runs on Pseudo Masochism™

Friday, February 10th, 2012

A mob that’s filled with self-righteous fury isn’t very discriminating.

In 2000 an angry crowd attacked a paediatrician after he was mistakenly named as a paedophile. Last year the Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy was abused by football fans who mistook him for match referee Chris Foy. And last month, a small Scottish farm certification agency, SOPA, received torrents of abuse from ‘digital rights’ campaigners who were upset about the United States’ proposed Stop Online Piracy Act.

Once it’s got its blood boiling, the mob needs new targets. Now it’s set its sights on ACTA, an international treaty to combat counterfeiting and piracy. Rallies will take place tomorrow. ACTA lost its digital copyright provisions long ago, but the mob hasn’t noticed. Many of the claims made for ACTA are completely false.

Even Ars Technica, which fomented the anti-SOPA campaign, has felt obliged to correct the anti-ACTA myths that are circulating on social media. The website recently lamented that the internet is “awash in inaccurate anti-SOPA”, busting the myths of the anti-ACTA crusaders.

ISPs are not obliged to monitor traffic, Ars points out. ACTA contains no web-blocking provisions or graduated response regime. It won’t block generic drugs.

In fact, as I pointed out at the time, ACTA is a non-binding agreement that doesn’t, in any case, apply to countries such as the UK, which have their own IP enforcement initiatives. The passage of the Digital Economy Act in 2010 made the entire discussion moot.

I recently asked the Dark Side what they hoped to get from ACTA.

“Nothing. The trademark and counterfeiting people really need it. There’s nothing in it for us, or for any copyright holders,” one entertainment industry lawyer told me.
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Steve Jobs and Dianamania revisited

Friday, October 7th, 2011


Steve Jobs was a remarkable and fascinating businessman, and by some distance the most interesting and accomplished personality operating in an important corner of the economy. He had a respect for the intelligence of human beings and their ambition, and potential – showing an optimism which is rare in a cynical industry. And Jobs left us far too early.

But we knew what was coming, didn’t we? In the media, a race to the top of Mount Hyperbole, that was easily won by Stephen Fry, with President Obama close behind. And public, showy and stagey displays of public emotion. (Why? Did no one tell you he was ill?).

I actually find all this disrespectful, and as distasteful as any sick joke.

Nobody could be more scathing about mindless technology worship than Steve Jobs. My favourite interview with him was by Gary Wolf, when Jobs was 39, and had realised the utopianism of his generation was shallow, empty and a giant diversion. The web would augment the world, not change it. Far more important, he stressed, was education.
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“Disruptive Technology” blather is not clever or useful

Friday, August 26th, 2011

I have a list of some words that really should be banned in polite conversation. The only reason not to ban them is that they’re useful indicators, an unambiguous warning that the speakers are going to be a serious waste of our time. The use of any of these words is like wearing a giant invisible that that says: “I have no insight or experience to offer and talking to me represents a huge opportunity cost.”

Many of the most enthusiastic users work in consultancy or academia or punditry or new media – the parasitic professions. So what might be on my little list?

One is “meme”, obviously.

Another is “business model”. Nobody in business ever used the word “business model”; it’s the sign of an outsider who has never run a business. But people in consultancy or academia use it profusely. It’s like virgins talking about complicated sexual practices.

The word I’ll look at today, the first day of the reign of Apple’s new full-time CEO Tim Cook, is “disruption”.
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Murdoch and Mythology

Thursday, July 21st, 2011


Keyser Sose

If children didn’t believe in Santa, thousands of grown men wouldn’t dress up in fur-trimmed red jumpsuits, put on false beards, and give children unwanted gifts in tents every year. Perhaps some would, but they’d probably be arrested.

For the past fortnight, TV and newspaper editors in the UK have pushed aside stories of famine and the European financial crisis – which is greater now than the credit crunch three years ago – in favour of saturation coverage of the troubles of a rival media company.

This rival has real troubles, to be sure, which I will not attempt to diminish. But the volume and intensity of coverage is defined by the real size and reach of News Corporation. And this is not reality, but a myth. Just as children want a Santa, so too do editors and Prime Ministers want a “Murdoch” that resembles the omniscient movie villain/myth Keyser Soze. They’ve defined themselves by this myth.
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The BBC struggles with the concept of ‘tech bubble’

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

The BBC has a real problem with social media. It’s delighted when something new appears. It slips into the patrician role that comes naturally to broadcasters – and especially the BBC. It can express childlike wonderment – Wow! – at something new and amazing. Getting beyond that though, is where the trouble starts.

Perhaps the BBC is haunted by the idea that people simply get on and use new communication tools without “Auntie’s” assistance. The viewers typically also have much more realistic expectations of the technology than, say, pundits. So we keep hearing wonderment, and advice on how get online, a bit like a slightly mad primary school teacher.

The gears really grind when something more critical is required. This week the corporation’s news flagship Newsnight – one of the last remaining TV programmes for grown-ups – asked if there was a “tech bubble”. Investment is pouring into social media startups. Would it all end in tears?

Yet having the posed the question, the report and discussion that followed were designed to dispel understanding and analysis. Before long it had turned into a gathering of the Unicorn Preservation Society. We were even told that only people who might want to describe the web investments a “bubble” were self-serving opportunists.

Bad people, in other words, thinking bad thoughts.
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Stephen Fry chucks cash at hopeless browser plugin

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Stephen Fry’s reputation as a technology expert has taken another dent. The ubiquitous luvvie has invested in Pushnote, a commenting system for websites. “Makes the web one big democratic comment platform,” Fry tweeted.

It’s actually a social network – but one that’s parasitic on other sites.

There’s just one catch.
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Times bullish: no longer throwing money down web toilet

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

It’s too early to say whether the Times paywall is a success or not. But it’s done wonders for conferences about newspapers.

In place of the usual hand-wringing and Kumbaya pipedreams, we’re getting quite a bit of decent discussion. The Telegraph is next to ask for your dosh – probably with a “metered” model used by the FT, according to… the FT.

No one looked happier than Dominic Young, News International’s director of strategy and product development, after five months behind a paywall. Speaking at a Westminster Media Forum debate on Payment for Content, Young said none of the dire predictions by rivals had come true; and free of the tyranny of SEO, his journalists could write stories for humans again, rather than robots.

“Virtually none of the predictions about would happen have turned out to be correct,” said Young.
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