Archive for January, 2009

Taylor Nelson Sofres plc
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While the government in the UK forges full-steam ahead with plans for ID cards, it’s interesting to see that they’re carrying out market-research on the issue. I just had a very chilly (perhaps in more ways than one) half-hour probe from a market-research company by the name of TNS on that very topic.

My girlfriend, as a foreign national, will be one of the first to be subjected to the new system. As a foreigner, her criminal tendencies will be put to test by this glorious new dawn (brave new world?). Interestingly, the guy asking the questions was in the same boat – and all in favour of biometrics in ID cards.

There were many questions that slip my mind, but a whole range on how I felt about ID cards, whether I think they’d work in preventing a range of problems. I wasn’t asked if I felt that particualr issues, such as illegal immigration, were a bad thing – it was assumed by the tone of the questions. Then again, it was unlikely I’d demand free reign for terrorist groups. However, so close to Stockwell, perhaps I would be inclined to worry about mistaken identities…

All in all, it has led me to wonder – are they as committed as they say they are, presuming they will listen to the results that come back? I remember the Iraq-war demonstrations, and I remember that the government did not listen to the voice of the public. However, that was when the public disagreed. The man from TNS probably should not have told me so freely, but the results coming back show 43% of the public (presuming we can take his stats as gold) in favour of ID cards, far above those not in favour. So there you have it, basically. ID cards are coming, and no amount of principled backbenchers will be able to do a thing about it, whether or not it really is a good idea of an extremely expensive scheme that will fall flat on its face once it results in a massive increase in cases of ID theft, as opposed to the opposite.

Link to No2ID

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Was it Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory wit...
Image by hirefrank via Flickr

Well, actually I don’t think so. The last time I bought a paper was when Obama won the election (a copy of The Grauniad and one of The Sun, clearly). But I see what Brian Till is saying in this major guilt trip.

What I find most interesting is the action he takes to relieve himself of some of this Google-based angst; subscribing to four newspapers. For such a forward-looking guy, it seems like a cork in the dam, or whatever the phrase is. Saving newspapers from online news will take more than that. Personally, rescuing news in general, and good journalism, is the more interesting fight.

Instead of looking to newspapers, I’m pretty sure we can look towards quality journalistic magazines as saviours. Sales of UK magazines such as The New Statesman, The Economist and The Spectator have all fared very well in recent years, depsite the downsurge in newspaper sales. They, of course, are also printed on paper. It seems having something in your hand is something people want to have – and these magazines are proof that just because something is also available in the form of online news, does not mean it cannot be sold in dead-tree format. Of course, the fine lines between news, comment and opinion may have something to do with it, but on the whole when a magazine has articles providing a) a wrap to the week’s news and b) a longer in depth look at an issue, then they may be that much more resilient.

Editors WebLog Link

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BBC Television Centre
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I’m glad that my days of slaving away for nothing for large media corporations are over.

When I hear news like this – that execs at the BBC won’t be receiving any bonuses this year – I feel positive.  Not because they are earning way to much money when compared to other professions (unsurprisingly, banking comes to mind), but because of the way the BBC treats junior staff.

I have no huge qualms with the BBC – and others – keeping journalists, for example, on a freelance basis.  But the fact is that when it comes to ‘work-experience’ (often more work, less experience), the BBC could not even run itself if it didn’t have access to this unpaid workforce. Each year hundreds of eager young hopefuls pile in, do a month for a patronising scrap of paper, and get spat out again. The lucky ones meet the right people and score a job. The medium-lucky ones learn a lot. And the rest think ‘you jammy bastards.’

If we’re not careful, we’ll end up having a system like Germany’s, where young people end up going from ‘Praktikum’ placement to placement until they’re thirty years old, never once offered a proper job with proper money. In Germany, across many professions, as in the UK’s media industry, this leads to one type of person being able to work in the media, and therefore journalism – ‘rich kids’ if you like, or more accurately, well-off people. What we do not need is an entire journalistic class based entirely of people who can afford to work for nothing because their parents are able to assist them through this period. As a disclaimer, I don’t think I could have got the experience under my belt I have at this point in time if it weren’t my parents lending me large sums of cash to do so. But there are plenty of others who won’t get that chance. So the more cuts for those at the top of the BBC ladder, the better. Try paying those on the first rung!

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Brookgreen Gardens in P...
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France is fascinating. Sarkozy won the last election comfortably against the sociliasts, but has now announced massive state-aid to prop up the newspaper industry.

Last week, he announced €600m for newspapers, including measures that will see a free one-year subscription to the newspaper of choice to every 18 year-old in the country. But will this sve the industry? Because, let’s face it, this looks to be about jobs and the economy – and not about investing in quality journalism. If the most popular newspaper in France is sports paper L’Equipe, what’s to suggest the kids in question don’t sign up on mass to read that particular publication?

There are some worried that this amounts to political interference – ‘he who giveth may taketh away’, says Jeff Jarvis. But this ignores the problem, in the same way that massive bail-outs of the car industry in the US (and, let’s face it, the banking industry in the US, here in the UK, and elsewhere) ignore the real problem – newspaper circulations are not falling because ‘the youth’ aren’t interested in news, it’s because their news is consumed online. Just as teenagers don’t necessarrily want the same gas-guzzling ‘Chlesea tractors’ they did when oil-consumption and global warming weren’t such a front-page issue, neither do they want to wait for their news to be printed on dead trees.  Unions might have the best interests of their workers at heart, but the long term interests of France aren’t best-served by propping up an industry that’s never been particulalry popular anyway, compared to the circulation of papers in the UK, for example.

Included in the announcement are tax-breaks for those starting up online news websites and organisations. This, it seems, gets closer to the real issue. But why waste paper on providing free papers to teenagers? They can get their news online if they want it. Sarko and other leaders would be better off investing in quality infrastructure with the kind of broadband that will serve their  national media’s interests – as well as their economies’ in general – for many more years to come.

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Premier League
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Two and a half years after I watched my first illegal p2p stream of a Premier League football match, lawyers for the grotesquely bloated English Premier League are upping their lobbying of the UK Government.

I remember when you had to guess your way through Chinese characters to find the stream you wanted, but in the last year or so, the quality of illegal streams has really picked up. Sites such as collate streams of every sporting event you could dream of, allowing those of us who can’t afford/don’t want to afford to line the pockets of Sky Sports and Setanta to engage in that ancient ritual of watching 22 men kick a plastic ball around a field.  As with plans to tackle the illegal downloading of music, the UK government seems to think it can stop the issue of illegal sports streams by leaning on ISPs. Maybe they’re right – but I imagine that’s some way off. Besides, seeing as it’s taken so long for action this time, someone more technical than me will find a way around this, meaning we can continue to watch the game without paying, happy in the knowledge that the innovators of this world are not the defenders of immorally -if not financially -bankrupt regimes.

Is this stealing? Under the current system, yes, clearly. But as with Hollywood and the music industry, perhaps a new method of paying needs to be found. The amount of money spent on advertising can surely pay a good chunk – why not up it? What about embnedded advertising on screen for example? Online media has changed the game – your model is not working anymore.

Besides, it’s party because the public are exploited by pay TV that footballers get paid 100k a week. Does the public want that? Largely, no. So maybe  when the Premier League, worried it won’t be able to flog its wares for quite as much if the companies forking out for it know it’s not quite as valuable anymore, come knocking at Culture Secretary Andy Burnham’s door – he can answer that as an MP, he’s got far more important things to worry about than defending the interests of the Premier League millionaires.

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The Channel 4 News logo
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I don’t own a television, but I do have the capacity to view domestic terrestrial television via Livestation or the commendable and less buggy (at least on a mac) Zattoo. And you wouldn’t believe the problems this causes!

Zattoo gives me the ability to harp on about only enjoying Video on Demand to friends and colleagues, while also secretly watching C4 News each night at seven. Because although Channel Four News -and various other bulletins around the world – does indeed get posted on the internet an hour or two later, there is undoubtedly something about watching it go out live. The same goes for Newsnight on BBC2, but as this doesn’t even finish up til around 23.15, there’s not much point watching it on iPlayer, I find, as by the time you get a chance (usually the enxt day after work), it’s no longer ‘new’ news.

Therefore, I wonder if there are many like me who come home at around 19.15 wanting to watch C4 News ( and on days where the US sees its first black president sworn in, who wouldn’t?), and then have a dilemma about whether to watch it live (online or not) after having missed the lead story and thus the whole frigging point, or wait until the content is posted online – usually around 20.30 or so. There are two problems with this. The delay, clearly, and the fact they haven’t sorted their full-screen capability out – hey, there may be financial problems, but come on, it’s 2009 already….

And now I’m sitting here, with ten minutes until the news hour is over, wondering if I should just catch the last ten minutes, and then watch the first fifty in an hour. Madness! Media convergence can be quite testing at times.

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Mozilla Firefox
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An interesting post from Stuff Journalists Like on why journalists use firefox.

I wasn’t aware of this phenomenon; but I’ll add my own two cents to the ‘browser wars’ debate and suggest journalists always like to think they’re on top of things. And using IE is clearly a long way from being on top of things when it comes to web browsing and to online news in particular. Time is money (I have little of either), and waiting around for IE to think  is not cool

Essentially, use firefox because last time I checked, Chrome was still buggy as all hell when playing videos. That was a few months back, so maybe I’ll recheck this week.

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