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

Archive for February 2007

If you read a PDF paper, you’re costing the Telegraph a fortune

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Paul Bradshaw, and I have the same muses. And what I wouldn’t give to see the server stats of the Telegraph’s 4pm PDF edition.

Steffen Fjaervik at Poynter Online suggests that hardly anyone reads PDF papers.

The UK marketplace is slightly different in that many are given away, but I’m intrigued to know if all the effort going into these digital editions is worth it: Guardian. Daily Telegraph.

I live in London and I have two free papers (thelondonpaper, London Lite) thrust into my hands on going home, so I tend not to bother printing anything else out, but I’m quite prepared to accept that I’m atypical.

In the Poynter article consultant Peter Zollman says:

“digital editions could be updated and made more interactive through embedded audio, video, or multimedia files, etc. But not many publishers of digital editions are doing that”.

Interesting. I can’t think of anything stranger than producing a page that you intend people to print out, and then embedding multimedia into it. Maybe everyone else has got a brand of printer I haven’t heard about, but for some reason whenever I print out a PDF, the video and audio links stop working when they get to the ink+paper medium.

The Telegraph’s 4pm does this, and it’s actually a good, and well put-together read, but if Poyter’s right and it’s all a waste of time, the stats for the multimedia on the top-right must be low.

(And today, the audio and picture gallery links are still broken, some 4 hours after publication – that tells you something.)

It’s not that multimedia is the wrong thing to do, it’s unquestionably the right thing, but you have to get it into the right medium, and at the right time, and in the right way for it to be effective.

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Written by Robert

26 February, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Convergence, Newspapers

Why is Google slow on content filtering? Because it’s impossible.

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Google has been expected, for a long time, to placate various Big Media companies about copyrighted video appearing on You Tube.

Everyone (including Google) wants some form of content filtering to be attached to You Tube, to prevent unauthorised bits of hit TV shows from appearing there. Today, we find out that Google will bring in a 3rd party, Audible Magic to begin this filtering process.

There’s a big debate about whether this is a stop-gap before they roll out something of their own, or whether something has gone awry with their own plans. Media executives are certainly getting tired of waiting for the promised filters.

I’ll tell you why it’s taken Google so long to implement anything at all. Because content filtering is actually pretty difficult. I would go so far to say that on this scale, it’s impossible.

Why? Because to know what to disallow, Google needs to have a copy of the content to compare uploads with. That means to be an effective filter of content, Google needs to have a copy of every TV programme ever made!

That’s not going to happen. But think how well that goal fits in with Google’s aim to organise the world’s information. Google would love to be the authoritative repository of the world’s television.

Written by Robert

23 February, 2007 at 6:29 pm

UK Broadband faster and nearly ubiquitous

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But overall internet penetration is disappointing

A stats story.  In the UK nearly 80% of internet connections are now broadband.  At the same time, broadband speeds are increasing.  Download bandwidth now averages 2Mbit/s.

All good if you’re actually on the internet, but overall internet penetration is low – fewer than 60% of households have a net connection.  Far more households have digital TV, around 80% I think at the last count.

Written by Robert

22 February, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Posted in General, Technology

Online video doesn’t happen overnight

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Unlike producing a newspaper

Print journalists don’t make natural videographers.  That’s clear from the many papers who are currently attempting to ‘make television’.  But that aim is a red herring.

Rather than watching the news on TV and attempting to emulate the format, these publications should start by using video to illustrate better the stories they are already writing.

Here’s a good example from the Eastern Daily Press.  It’s short, it’s got great pictures and it’s illustrative of the story it sits in.  There’s nothing else.  No ‘production value’, not even a voiceover.

That’s all you need to concentrate on doing at the moment, because reporters need time to develop those skills (which can all be taught incidentally).  Walk, then run.

Andy Dickinson’s pulled together a wrap of views about how well video is currently being made on newspaper sites.  But I’ll elaborate on a couple of comments I’ve left on related posts.

The first on Paul Bradshaw’s where he calls the Bolton News video “the worst attempt at online video I’ve seen so far.” Ouch.  But first, I’ve seen worse, and second what makes it pointless is the lack of any actual video about the stories.

A bulletin format could work, just not on a website like this because all the stories are around us in a non-linear form. Where a bulletin like this comes into its own is when we are removed from the website. eg, video download, separate video player, or IPTV service.

This is exactly what The Press Association (one of my clients) pioneered some two years ago.

Andrew Grant-Adamson rightly points out that national newspapers are making some odd choices about video on their sites.  But again, this is a startup phase.  Adopting the Roo player is a quick and fast way of getting video on their sites.

But it doesn’t stop them adding their own video, for example The Sun differentiates itself by including bespoke red carpet entertainment and SunTV news segments which are specially made for them by the Press Association.

(The PA are also developing a national news video agency service so that publishers have access to UK news material to add to their own local video.)

<shameless client plug off>

I’ll also link back to a previous posting about why this stuff is hard, though it’s coming from a more technical perspective.

Written by Robert

21 February, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Convergence, Newspapers

NY Times plans for day the presses stop – or does it?

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“I don’t know, and I don’t care” 

The publisher of the New York Times seems to be so far down the path of online transformation that he no longer worries about whether the paper will still be available on paper in 5 years.

In a rare interview on Israeli site Haaretz, Arthur Sulzberger speaks as if he believes it is inevitable that one day the NY times will roll the presses no longer.

He says that it doesn’t matter that online revenues are less, as the overheads are also smaller, but readers should always expect to have to pay for information.

However, the comments have caused enough of a stir for Mr. Sulzberger to speak to his employees to ‘clarify’ what he meant, which is that print is still great.

“Print continues to command high levels of reader engagement. And, of course, we still make most of our money from print advertising and circulation revenue … So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around–in print–for a long time.”

There’s surprisingly little buzz about this story, which is unusual for such a high-profile title.  One writer called Sulzberger short-sighted and not visionary.

I’m not entirely sure that a newspaper like the NYT has to stop the presses eventually, certainly not so soon as 5 years.  Though the same is not true about some other titles.

Written by Robert

20 February, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Business, Media, Newspapers

Get your audio right or you look cheap

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What’s the difference between professionally shot video and video that look, well, unprofessional?

Surprisingly to some, it’s the audio track.

The News of the World had a great scoop at the weekend, with an interview with Des Smith on the cash-for-honours scandal. They videoed a short interview with Mr Smith to distribute to the broadcast media. I saw parts of the interview on TV and was struck by how poor the sound was.

The video was definitely shot by someone who’s had limited experience with a camera. The sound is poor, the framing’s off. It’s a good story, but it loses because of the poor quality. It looks amateur, and that’s not where the newspapers want to be.

Video, and audio is a craft skill you have to learn. Even the most expensive of cameras can’t do the job for you. It’s like expecting the equipment to ask the questions!

Andy Dickinson’s currently musing over the values of good audio and is worth a read.

Written by Robert

19 February, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Media, Technology

America’s Fake News alert is warning for UK

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It’s no surprise that PR firms produce broadcast video – it’s part of their toolkit to influence viewpoints. You often see some of their material incorporated into news stories you see on TV, suitably labelled.

However the US is not quite the same. PR firms there make entire news packages complete with ‘reporters’ and ‘expert interviewees’. They then farm these ‘stories’ out to local TV stations.

The shocking thing is that some of those stations put this stuff on air, and without any attribution.

There’s a whole report about it here, complete with example recordings.

What I’m concerned about, in the era of internet distribution is how easy it is for PR firms and big corporations here to do much the same thing. Released from the trust and authority of regulated broadcasters we risk becoming progressively mis-informed.

Written by Robert

15 February, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Business, Media, Technology