Saturday, April 22

Happy Earth Day

Turn off the lights. Turn off the PC. Stop Blogging. Don't fly anywhere (if you do take Nasa's new plane below). And get out in the sunshine. Go on, at least for a day.

"Earth Day is celebrated in most countries on the vernal equinox to mark the precise moment that spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. At this global moment, night and day are equal length anywhere on Earth.

Earth Day was created to remind us of our shared responsibility to protect the planet." Wikipedia

And from Gordon Brown on the BBC Climate change fight 'moral duty'

Thursday, April 20

Distributed Media: Triple Play? Strike One

I picked up on an interesting perspective of how content owners and telecos are dealing with the possibilities of IPTV - Free Net TV threatens telecoms and cable

Walt Disney's bold move to let people download TV shows for free could spell trouble for cable and satellite providers, but it also throws into question the strategy of telephone companies spending billions to get into the paid TV business.

...Over the past two years, Verizon has spent billions of dollars to build a fiber network directly into people's homes that can deliver a triple-play package of services including ultra-fast broadband, phone service and TV. It has bet the farm, so to speak, that the best way to compete against the cable companies, which are now offering phone service, is to try and beat them at their own game. But building and upgrading telecom networks for video is a capital-intensive strategy
fraught with risks.

Fragmentation of media consumption and delivery could potentially undermine the business models of the very businesses who have touted 'convergence' for the last 20 years.

In much the same way that VoIP providers have been able to disrupt traditional telecos, due to the interoperability and open standards of web. Telecos and Cable companies find their own 'walled garden' distribution a thing of the past.

It is hard to see how a single Teleco can compete with an open, standards based platform (the internet) in which tens of thousand of developers push the boundaries of what is technically possible - giving us, the user, more flexibility over programming and better quality video.

The article cleverly concludes by hinting at the legal discussions over Net neutrality. This is the debate over whether Telecos should be able to charge providers (VoIP, Content Owners, IPTV Programming companies) a different, higher rate to compensate for their own loss in revenue in these areas.

So it seems the only solution for Telecos toward the disruptive nature of distributed media, is "the squeaze" to control the network.

Read Vince Cerf's net neutrality speech to congress

Tuesday, April 18

Distributed Media: Old Media Owners Hold The Ace Card

Continuing the theme of the impact of Distributed Media, there's still a strong 'play' that the traditional media owners have, "brand".

It's my feeling that the signifcance of a strong brand in the digital space is under-played by most industry pundits and the wider media. A brand is what we understand a product or service to be, it's the sum of all parts and it's built from every single interaction we have and have had with a company.

Like an 'old friend', brands run deep in people's consciousness. People know instinctively from experience what to expect and what their getting in to. Easyjet and RyanAir are 'no-frills' airlines, Heinz baked-beans taste the same each time, Amazon get you the books on-time at good prices, New York Times gives us only news it is willing to vouch for, everyday.

Jeff Bezos rolled the Amazon dice heavily toward this all encompassing 'brand'. And they deserve to sit alongside other huge names. But they did so in a new, young emerging space. So at the time there was territory and time to establish such a fresh brand.

As time goes by there is less space in the big categories for fresh new players. When the 'old brands' play the ace-card in the digital they are carrying with them an unfair (unfair for pure plays) amount of history, heritage and positive (they hope) feeling from consumers.

So the question becomes, "In consumers minds, how much importance is there on the digital interface versus the actual content and brand behind it?"

MSN, Google and Yahoo! better believe we love their interface to content so much we're willing to drop the brand sites we visit.

Taking that thought into the real world context, when Walmart (hello USA) or Tesco push their own-label products do you stop buying the branded products? No, but maybe you substitute a couple of less important brand items in your shopping trolley for own-label.

The same will probably be true online. The brands still hold the Ace Card, if they can learn how and when to play it.

Off Topic: Big Fat Cow

This is completely off topic. An astounding fact I read today:

"We live in a world of 6 billion people, 3 billion living on less than two dollars a day. European cows get subsidised to the extent of $2.50 per day, so there's something disproportionate in terms of the way we're attending to the question of poverty."

Head of the World Bank, 2005.

Friday, April 14

Distributed Media: Where is the payback?

Guy Kawasaki in a recent interview said that he wouldn't invest in businesses reliant on Google Adwords revenues. Quite right. This prompted me to think about the NEW advertising market in general.

The advertising model is purported to be the saviour/future of so many online start-ups and more established brands right now. But how long can this last? With media distribution comes complexity for advertisers and media owners:

  • Multiple devices (TV, PC, Mobile, PDA, Mobile Consoles, In-Cars)
  • Complex day-part programming (fragmentation of consumer consumption behaviours)
  • Geo-Local (By country, town, neighbourhood)
  • Irrelevance of Geo-Local (Globalisation driving cross-border communities irrelevant of country i.e. Gamers)
  • Free media (Unwillingness to pay for digital media particularly news)
  • Personalisation (From RSS to mash-ups, open APIs)

    All this complexity presents challenges for established media brands to reshape and realign. So many bloggers are discussing how such brands that carry high cost structures can keep pace with changing consumer consumption? In many cases they don't have to, at least not yet. Because right now, the mass market isn't quite there. Reading news on mobiles, booking hotels from your car, ipTV in the centre of the home. They're all embryonic, for now.

    So there is time for brands to realign. News Corporation, with its string of acquisitions this last 18 months, is making these bold steps. The steps to move from being a "flat", two-dimensional provider of (1)content and (2)advertising. To becoming a multi-dimension provider of (1)content, (3)advertising, (3)customised & personal & relevant on many devices.

    Through these multi-dimensions comes problems for advertisers and media owners. What we know as advertising now (page, banners, text, sponsorship) may not be so easy to "pigeon hole" in years to come. Trying to force banner ads onto mobile devices is, frankly, low-impact, intrusive and not the best use of the medium. But advertorial (be that Video, Podcast, Text) may be a better answer. We're going to have to cope with a 'marketing mix' with complexity like never before.

    In fact, the term "media owner" as we know it could be consigned to the history books, if distributed media consumption pushes the power to "interface owner" rather than content producers. At this point the advertising and control of the audience moves away from producers to interface owners (the new media owners). This happened a long-time ago on TV, where TV stations began buying content over producing their own. The TV station is the interface and the advertising owner.

    Compare this to Newspapers/Magazines. They are both the interface, producers and advertising owners. Radio stations, on the whole, are both the interface, producers and advertising owners.

    For TV, Radio, Newsprint - the interface has begun to move. In digital the interface can't be so easily controlled. In fact, the controllers are a new breed - mobile operators and pure play internet companies. But unlike early TV and Radio, instead of producing content, they're taking it free and paid for from producers.

    The interface owner will continue to control the advertising model...unless we invent a new model.
  • Sunday, April 9

    Addicted to the Internet

    Feeling like your spending too much time starring at the glowing LCD? Is your skin loosing its colour? Are you finding that you prefer the blinds shut in the day-time?

    You could be suffering from IAD (Internet Addiction Disorder). It's time to fly to Beijing for treatment in their health new centre for IAD disorders. The BBC reports China's measures to curb gamers:

    Under the new system, your online character becomes less and less effective. After three hours, the number of in-game "experience points" for, say, killing an opponent are reduced by half.

    After five hours you do not get any at all. It is called the fatigue system.

    But with the balance of Yin and Yang, China's leaders also announce £1.14bn investment in developing a home-grown gaming industry to compete internationally. So they own the whole value-chain; creating the drug through to weening you off it.

    How to spot when you've got IAD:

    - You have more than three cold, half-full coffee cups around your flat screen
    - You only eat when you've completed a 'level'
    - You refer to people by their online alias instead of their real name
    - It has been three months since you entered a high-street shop (you only order online)
    - You only sleep when there's a power cut

    Wednesday, April 5

    The Emperors New Clothes

    Who's interested in being an engineer or a scientist? All those white coats and hard-hats. Science based careers do suffer from a bad image in the UK and USA. When I was at school Design and Technology comprised mostly of various forms of destructive testing. I am sure there must be some educational benefit from melting coins under a gas powered torch.

    In Asia, the engineers are economic heroes - designing multi-million dollar factories, crafting cityscapes and inventing new technology. It must be the most exciting profession. As an Asian engineer you are in demand and investors have huge sums of money for you to create the world's grandest schemes. China created 600,000 engineering graduates against the USA's 135,000 last year.

    Ted Fishman, China Inc: "Just as China's abundant unskilled workers feed the world more shoes and more gadgets than it needs - China's newly skilled industrialists threatens to swamp the world's most highly prized high-tech markets."

    In his book, Fishman talks of the industrial R&D spend in China being second only to the USA and Japan. Last year, the Peoples Daily reported China will be spend more of its GDP on R&D than the whole of the EU. Motorola, one of the first telcos to step into China, has 19 R&D centres in China.
    Siemen's has forty-five companies in China, 30,000 people and sold $5billion of equipment to the country in 2003. Most of Siemen's equipment sales are high end machinery and technology needed for R&D and world-class production facilities.

    UK industry appears to be 'the emperors new clothes' built almost entirely on light manufacturing and services. Certainly in our lifetime 'the UK emperor' might be embarrassed to find its new clothes are easily taken away.

    It strikes me as time for technology and digital industry in the West to forge strong relationships with Eastern cousins.