MediaBizTech

Robert Freeman's whole Media, Business and Technology thing. Sorted.

No more NBC Nightly News podcasts. The bigger loser? NBC News.

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NBC NIghtly News podcast in iTunes

Soon to be available nightly, zero days a week

The flexibility of being able to download audio and video programmes to my mobile devices is one of the things that’s revolutionised by media consumption in the last decade. I have a 64GB ipod which is pretty much dedicated to podcasts, and it’s usually complaining that I’m about to run out of space.

I’m a massive consumer of documentary and current affairs, but I watch very little on-the-day TV news. And thanks to NBC’s decision to kill the podcast feed of Nightly News, I’ll now be watching even less.

I’ve been downloading NBC Nightly News pretty much every day for the last couple of years. It’s a great contrast to UK daily news programmes. I enjoy the different presentational style, I enjoy the different editorial decisions. But I also enjoy the very traditional collection of ‘stuff that happened today’ packaged into one simple bulletin.

NBC Nightly News discontinued

There’s a helpful announcement pointing me in the direction of other ways to watch, via the dedicated app, or on the web, but here’s why the other options don’t work for me:

Both the app and website options need a live internet connection.  I don’t always have one. The fantastic thing about a podcast or download is that it works wherever you are, even when your connection is patchy. I’m almost always enroute somewhere when I’m watching, hence my internet is always patchy.

Neither the app or wesbite options allow me to watch at anything other than real-time. I have something like 35 programmes on my device and in order to fit everything in, I almost always play things back at a faster speed.

This may seem extremely geeky (and I admit it probably is) but I often listen or watch up to 5 hours of media in a day, and I only have about three hours to do so. The ability to compress time is really valuable.

NBC Nightly News screengrab

I chose an ipod specifically because is has the best implementation of this that I’ve found so far, as it attempts to keep the pitch the same, while increasing the speed. It doesn’t sound normal, but it isn’t so strange that you can’t listen or understand for quite long periods. A 30 minute show magically becomes 15 minutes long and I have 15 minutes to watch something else.

The audio version of Nightly News will still be available yes, and I could download that and play it back at a higher speed. However, without the pictures, I would do better with a dedicated radio programme instead, radio reporters don’t constantly refer to things you cannot see.

I don’t know the reason NBC are getting rid of Nightly News in video, but in doing so, mainstream TV loses another viewer and they hurt their overall accessibility at a time when ease-of-access is one of the most important things for a media producer. Make it harder for people to get to your offer, and the majority just won’t bother.

If I had the time, I could probably do a screen-scrape of their web video and get the programme back, but there’s so much competition out there, I’ll probably just switch to something else.

I never cease to be amazed at how organisations suffering from audience-flight make decisions which will exacerbate the problem, but at least my ipod has a bit more space now.

Score: Innovation 1, mainstream media nil. Again.

Written by Robert

1 February, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Travel offpeak in London? 2.5% fare increase? Double it, then double it again. Still not close.

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travel tickets and paper calculations

Off-peak – not a thing anymore

Welcome to 2015!

I don’t normally write about topics which appear everywhere else in the mainstream news, but here’s something that I can’t understand isn’t a bigger story, judging by the comments I’ve seen online today.

The news in London, and across much of England is that with today being the first work day of the year for many, it now it costs on average 2.5% more for the train or bus to work.

Here’s the headline you haven’t seen:

Price of off-peak travel in London leaps 38%

You read that correctly. If you, like many, like the cost-saving and lack of crush of travelling after 0930, then you just got what must be the largest fare increase in the country.

In 2014 an offpeak travelcard for zones 1-6 cost:    £8.90

In 2015 an offpeak travelcard for zones 1-6 is now £12.00, a rise of 34.8%.

There are some other interesting changes.

The Anytime Travelcard is now also £12 for zones 1-4. There seems to be no incentive at all to travel offpeak anymore with this type of ticket.  Live further out? Your fare jumps another 40% higher:

Buy a travelcard at 8am in Oakleigh Park – £12.  Buy it at New Barnet about a mile further up the road, and you’ll pay £17. My advice, walk the mile! (Does TFL have a secret pact with the NHS to encourage pedestrians?)

Price capping

It gets even more interesting when you look at what’s happened to the price caps.  This is the maximum possible you will pay in a day if you use an Oyster card, or a contactless payment card.

In 2014 the offpeak price cap for zones 1-6 was: £8.50

In 2015 the offpeak price cap for zones 1-6 is    : £11.70, an increase of 38%

And in these zones, TFL have effectively abolished offpeak fares. The peak and the offpeak caps are the same.

Where this does make a difference is outside zone 6.  Let’s stay with north London for a price example:

Use Oyster at Enfield Lock at 8am on a weekday and you won’t pay more than £11.70 for the entire day. Do the same at Waltham Cross, again about a mile further away and you will pay a whopping 70% more! The peak cap in zone 7 is £20.

Now let’s compare last year’s peaktime price caps, because in 2014, there was a significant premium for travelling with the herd.

In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-2 was: £8.40.   It’s now £6.40, a fall of 23%.

In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-3 was: £10.60. It’s now £7.50, a fall of 29%.

In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-4 was: £10.60. It’s now £9.20, a fall of 13%.

In 2014 the peak price cap for zones 1-6 was: £15.80. It’s now £11.70, a fall of 26%.

It seems if you live in zones 4 or 5, you’re not seeing your fair share of reduction, and those living in zone 1 (possibly those who can afford high prices the most) also see a significant reduction.

Silver lining

There’s one upside however, if you’re not travelling through zone 1. The price of a single between zones 2-6 is still £1.50.  After 0930 you can travel from Hammersmith to Heathrow, or from Mile End all the way to Epping for just £1.50.  That’s a bargain, a weird sort of bargain, but a bargain nonetheless.

Getting rid of paper

For the last few years, we’ve had a significant additional cost to buying a single paper ticket with cash, now that’s grown to day travelcards as well, with the cost of the paper travelcard being well above the price caps, both peak and off peak. Here’s an expensive example:

Travelling from Sidcup in SE London before 0930 an Anytime travelcard is £17, but the peak price cap is £10.90 so you’ll pay 55% more for that paper ticket.

I can see how the cost of dealing with paper tickets must have increased proportionally as usage of them has dropped. After all, they still need to keep all the gates taking paper, and offices and machines issuing them. But has the dropoff in the use of paper tickets in the last few years really brought us to the point where the cost is 55% more?

And with 2015’s fare regime it looks like off-peak travellers are being massively penalised. And penalised for what exactly? For waiting a bit longer, thus allowing more space for people who don’t have a choice about when to travel?

There isn’t a financial incentive any more if you live within zones 1-4. Just crush onto the trains with everyone else, because with the price-caps the same, you’re not going to pay any more than they are.

By travelling off-peak in 2015 you’re now paying more, not less. While those travelling at peak times can pay less, not more. That’s a strategy I don’t understand.

If you do understand … or you have a sensible comment, let me know.

Written by Robert

5 January, 2015 at 5:45 pm

My radio apps choices for Radio Festival’s Techcon14

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On behalf of the BBC Blue Room, I’m presenting a couple of sessions at The Radio Festival and Techcon (for engineers and technicians).

This morning I outlined some apps I think show interesting trends for the radio and audio industries, and for reference, here they are, with a couple of additions I didn’t get a chance to show.

The first three are all examples of text-to-speech developments. There are many organisations trying to achieve reliable mechanisms to automatically create speech radio.

Soundgecko – for Android and iOS

This takes any webpage or RSS feed and turns it into speech. The computer voice is surprisingly listenable!

Newsbeat – for Android and iOS

Newsbeat adds many more options for customisation and features a combination of computer speech and real human voices to. Weirdly, I find it hard to tell the difference sometimes, not because the computer voices are so good, but because the human voices can be very robotic.

Umano – for Android and iOS

This requires subscription to unlock all the features, but even without a mobile you can get a good idea of what’s it’s like by looking at their website.

Umano is fully human speech. How do they achieve this? The power of crowd-sourcing! You can audition to become an Umano reader, and then upload your finished readings. The users themselves select the stories they think should be turned into audio.

A couple of examples of content companies who have looked at the trends in online music listening and are seeing how they can use those in speech radio.

NPR One

NPR diligently tag all their live radio and their app creates a live-sounding news and current affairs station. You can tell it what you like, it will start to give you more of that. I like it a lot.

CBC Radio – just for iOS so far

It doesn’t have the personalisation features of NPR, but if you want programme segments, rather than hour-long chunks of radio, this is a nice way of doing it.

Storytelling with audio at the core

Operation Ajax – a comicbook-style docustory. Listen with headphones. I would happily plug in and spend hours going through, not just the story, but all the supporting material as well. An excellent example of genuinely multimedia storytelling.

Speech-to-song

Vio, is a live vocal processor for iOS. Headphones are a must. Hate the sound of your own voice? You won’t with this!

There must be many other interesting apps for audio and radio, if you know of others that you think are progressive or innovative, do let me know in the comments :)

.

Written by Robert

13 October, 2014 at 10:27 am

11 things about geography everyone voting in Scotland’s referendum should know

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VOTE NO, Yes

Dauvit Alexander / Flickr 

You know when you hear something and you just have to respond?  

This is one of those posts … 

News this week in Britain is full of the imminent independence referendum in Scotland. BBC Newsbeat has been covering it too, with a particular emphasis on teen voters. The 9th of September edition heard from two 19-year-old girls in Edinburgh, both called Sarah.

One was for independence, the other not.  Here’s what the first Sarah said when asked why she thought Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.

I feel like Scotland should be independent, there’s not really other unions in Europe.

I thought this was a slightly odd reason, and it wasn’t challenged by the reporter, so let’s examine it now in a rough blast through Europe and with apologies to history scholars everywhere! :-)


1. France

France has been getting bigger gradually with various unions since 843 AD. Many gains came from marriage, such as Brittany in the north-west of France. (One might say ‘speared’ onto the side of France, lol) Brittany was semi-independent but joined France in 1491 when Anne, the heir of Brittany married the King of France, Charles VIII.

2. Spain

Spain as we know it has been around since about 1492. Before it united, much of Spain was run by Muslims from north Africa. Historians called it an unusually tolerant society where Christians and Jews and Muslims lived in relative peace. Oh to be back there now.

3. Belgium

Tiny Belgium is currently a union between French and Dutch and Flemish speakers. It used to be an even smaller collection of around 6 independent states. There are occasional calls from the Dutch-speaking side, that they should make a union with the rest of the Netherlands.

4. The Kingdom of the Netherlands

Netherlands was created from a group of provinces under the Union of Utrecht in 1579, after a fight with Spain over religion. (The war theme – actually quite a strong driver of unions in all these countries to be honest!)

5. Greece

Greece is particularly difficult to summarise, the story of this country goes back thousands of years, Ancient Greece, natch. Philip of Macedon started unification during 300 BC. His son was Alexander the Great, who continued in the unification tradition by marching into new places with a large army and saying: “You’re all part of us now”.

6. Sweden

Sweden was probably consolidated from separate towns into a single nation around 1200 AD. It’s hard to say for sure, because no one in Sweden appears to have written anything down.

7. Switzerland

Switzerland is a union of self-governing Cantons. Assessment: Mostly harmless.

8. Italy

Italy as we know it didn’t exist before 1861, it was created by a union of dozens of different regions and city-states. Important factors: All spoke same language and enjoyed olive oil with everything.

9. Germany

Before 1871, Germany was a series of large separate states including Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover who were united by Otto von Bismark, who was running yet another separate Kingdom, Prussia.

Germany was artificially separated after WW2 and East Germany was run by a communist government. In 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany united into a single nation again. Also, Berlin is fun. You should go.

10. Russia

There have been two significant breakups of country unions in recent times. The big one is the break of the USSR in 1991. Russia had run out of money.

11. Yugoslavia

This contributed to Yugoslavia falling apart the next year. It was a federation of republics that had been pushed together after World War 2. When they broke apart in 1992, it led to another conflict with over 100,000 deaths.


Bonus fact for getting this far …

Not part of Europe of course, but let’s not forget the USA.  Starting in 1776, it is a gradually growing union now with 50 separate States, each with their own parliament and laws.

Written by Robert

14 September, 2014 at 3:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The sale of stuff from TV Centre – Valuable? Or Junk?

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Useless things – worth more than they cost to make

The contents of a building where I used to work are being slowly sold off.

The closure and sale of BBC Television Centre has ignited strong emotions and there was a protest to prevent planning permission for a redevelopment, involving some high-profile celebrities of British culture, to no avail.

As an armchair economist it’s fascinating to pick out a couple of results of some of the completed parts of the auction, because for me at least, the prices just don’t make any sense.

Take for example, lots 1455, and 1456. These are what’s left of some of the interior signs.

TV interior sign sold for £660

Lot 1456 sold for £423

They sold for a combined total of over £1,000!

I’m amazed, particularly as there’s not much about these which is scarce. The BBC still occupies three buildings across the road from TV Centre – I’m in one of them most weeks – and there’s still a machine that makes these signs and labels. If they’re worth this much money, someone should be running that machine night and day cranking more of them out!

How about lot 1444:

SFX door

 

£55 for a door to nowhere, and you could surely make this for half that price with bits from a DIY shop. With this piece though, I can understand more why it is valued highly

It would be interesting to know the history of this door. It’s possible it was originally made for radio drama and came over to Wood Lane if it was needed to re-dub sound effects for TV. Or it could have a longer heritage and started life in a film dubbing suite, maybe in Ealing, or in Lime Grove. It could however just as easily been knocked up in 20 mins by a TV Centre carpenter in the 1980s.

It’s clearly the possibilities of this history, and the unusualness of the item which make it worth more.

Time for a reality check though.  TV Centre was also full of functioning valuable equipment. Great for radio stations, universities, or small TV / film companies.  Let’s take a look at the going rate for something still being used, like a professional digital videotape recorder.

Sony digi beta recorder

New, they are sold for thousands. Even second-hand, you’ll get hundreds for them. There were many like these for sale in TV Centre’s auction. Here’s lot 1505.

Lot 1505 - Digi beta recorder

I think ‘thetoplens’ got a bargain there!

The sale of stuff from TV Centre isn’t over yet!  Two more auctions are scheduled, more equipment here, and you can still buy the satellite dishes and comms equipment. Although being unmaintained and exposed to the elements for well over two years, I’m not sure how much operational value there’s left in them. Plus for a domestic bidder in need of a new birdbath, you’re going to need a very large garden, and probably planning permission!

BBC TVC

flickr / peterdaniel

Let me know in the comments if you got a bargain, or whether you consider you got something valuable, no matter what you paid.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Robert

21 August, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Found in a drawer: Palm m125

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Palm m125And it still works perfectly!

While rummaging in the back of my odds and ends drawer today, I came across my old Palm device.

Welcome back to 2001! Palm called this a ‘handheld computer’, although I think I thought of it as a digital diary. I put in a couple of AAA batteries and it powered straight on (no proprietary batteries or connectors – yay!).

The m125 had a 33Mhz processor, was the first Palm to include an external memory card. It sold for $250 thirteen years ago, about the cost of a top-end Nexus 7 or a mid-spec iPhone 5S today.

Incredibly, you can still buy them new from between $50 and $150!

Although, before you decide you should read this excellent review from Ed Hardy.

The memory card in mine was still in place and still had applications installed!

Let’s see what we have:

Palm m125 screen and applications

AK Mirror: Could turn your palm into a torch. Maybe on a different model. This has no camera, no flash and a black & white screen. AKeysoft now nothing more than an abandoned WordPress page.

Avantgo. Now part of Sybase and appears to be some kind of mobile content pushing system, if it’s even still being used. That’s a shame. Avantgo was the RSS and Instapaper of its day.

Bol.com – still around and same logo. Buy.com was bought by Rakuten.

And a couple of games. Dopewars is basically a free-market simulator. It’s still around online, and mobile.  Here’s the Apple version with modern graphics, and an android version that’s much closer to the original.

And just to prove the thing does work, here’s me playing Hardball (a version of Breakout)

Written by Robert

21 March, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Skype to make group video chat free

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Skype group video

Not so exclusive anymore.

If you’re one of the people who got a free year’s subscription to Skype Premium as part of the Christmas collaboration offer, and are congratulating yourself for saving over $100, then hold on! It might not be as great a deal as you think.

Skype are about to make some big changes.

First the ‘Collaboration Premium’ freebie doesn’t include any free phone calls to real phones (one of the main parts of Skype Premium), the other important part, group video calls is about to be offered free to everyone anyway.

Skype is also ditching both the 12-month subscription offer (with its 50% discount) and the 3 month version.

Here’s part of the email reply I got from Skype when I enquired where the 12 month option had gone.

 

The reason behind these changes is that Skype will soon include Group Video Calling for free for those users who will link their Skype Accounts with MSA [Microsoft account]

 

I’m guessing this means if you have a hotmail, outlook or live.com email address.

So, if you’re about to buy or renew your Premium account, might be worth waiting to see if you can do with just Skype Credit (which is 30% off at the time of writing if you buy a git card)

Written by Robert

8 January, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Business, Software, video

Tagged with ,

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