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

Archive for April 2007

Google’s just not fun anymore

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Have you noticed that the price comparison website Froogle has vanished?

Google have renamed it, and you can tell they did it by committee, because they’ve come up with the most bland, boring and utilitarian name imaginable : Google Product Search.

Google says that the previous name ‘didn’t clearly describe what the product does’, and even has to point out that it was a pun on ‘frugal’.

Maybe American speakers just don’t get this kind of word play?


Written by Robert

30 April, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Posted in General

Digital switchover. Different countries, same problems.

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I’m currently in Barcelona attending MAC 07, the AV trade event for Catalunya, as a guest of the Observatori de la Ràdio a Catalunya.

What strikes me is the similarity of everyone’s problems.

Analogue is easy and well understood. Digital is complicated and expensive because it needs more people to understand it and takes longer and by the time you think you’ve got somewhere, something new gets invented and you’re back to square one.

The industry can’t plan for the future because investors and government agencies are cautious about commit funds for a project that may not fly, because technology moves so fast, it might be out of date before it comes to fruition.

It’s a chicken and egg problem. And the result is stagnation.

The stagnation in Spain appears to be over digital radio. DAB here doesn’t appear to be popular hasn’t worked, so other vendors are circling. DMB, D Radio Mondiale, DVB-H, and even Ibiquity from across the Atlantic are all being discussed.

No one can decide what they want, so nothing happens.

And in the meantime, the people who have lost patience with the process have all decided the same thing. The future for digital radio in Spain is the internet, as it’s the commonly accessible method there is right now.

Written by Robert

26 April, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Business, Media

Air France – chat to your heart’s content

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Just don’t sit next to me 

Silicon are reporting that Air France will trial allowing passengers to make mobile phone calls on planes.

Just weeks ago in the US, their regulator stopped short of allowing exactly the same thing, for now.

Written by Robert

19 April, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Popworld Pulp(ed) magazine. How could they have got it so wrong?

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Despite a year in the planning, and ticks in all the market research boxes, music magazine Popworld Pulp has closed after just two issues.

Press Gazette has the story.

The scale of the disaster is stunning. They were aiming for 60,000 sales a week and got 9,000. They printed a staggering 130,000 copies of the first issue.

The mag was a spin-off of Channel 4 TV show, Popworld, but how could publishers Brooklands have misjudged the market so?

Brooklands quoted Chief Exec Darren Styles in their news release

“How anybody under the age of 25 consumes music and the music media has changed profoundly in the past few years”

Too right Mr Styles, they don’t read music magazines for a start. Thumbs up for noticing that they’re on places like MySpace, and following them there, but why publish an another media form when there is already a Popworld website, that’s a great deal more like the show they already know, as well as countless other niche music sites.

This blog entry also discusses reasons why it couldn’t work, accurately predicting a failure, seeing as it was written with the launch of the first issue last week (although generously giving it till the end of the year to fold).

Written by Robert

18 April, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Business, Media

If I wasn’t already blocking Doubleclick cookies, I will now

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If you’re sensitive about online privacy have a think about the possible effects of Google buying Doubleclick.

If you accept cookies, I would be surprised if you didn’t have a Doubleclick one in your browser.  There’s possibly no problem if it’s just Doubleclick reading these back, but if and when that data gets passed to the big G, then if you use any other services (Gmail for example) Google will be able to build a far more personal and targeted profile of you and your browsing preferences.

Worth thinking about.

Incidentally, Google’s bought more than you might think.  Who spotted last month’s annoucement that Doubleclick snapped up european competitor Tangozebra?

Written by Robert

16 April, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Technology

Macquarie’s next natural step is to buy Technicolor

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Macquarie is a fascinating group of companies which seem to have the good old-fashioned principle of vertical integration at its heart, and watching the company’s buying strategy is like a good game of Monopoly.

With their recent purchase of National Grid Wireless (formerly the BBC’s transmitter network) they’ve bought Mayfair. They already had Park Lane (Arqiva) and with both of those blue cards they can start adding houses and hotels!

So it’s worth looking at the different bits of Macquarie and how important they’ve become to the media industry.

Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group is majority owner of Arqiva (formerly the ITV transmitter network) and Broadcast Australia. Both run broadcasting transmission facilities.

Arqiva also has production capability, cameras, studios etc, partly due to its purchase of Inmedia in 2005. Arqiva bought part of BT’s satellite business in November 2006.

Macquarie Capital Alliance Group is majority owner of Red Bee Media (formerly BBC Broadcast) which runs TV channel playout on behalf of the BBC and various broadcasters.

With Red Bee and Inmedia already in their hand, Macquarie could add a third playout facility or transmitter infrastructure company and complete the set. They’ve two to choose:

VT Communications (formerly the BBC World Service international transmitter network)

Technicolor Network Services (who run playout for ITV, and others)

Technicolor would be bursting with the same money-saving integration opportunities as NGW/Arqiva, but would mean that Macquarie would then own all the infrastructure and all the playout for the UK’s major broadcasters, potentially a real monopoly which would be frowned on.

The Times reports that Macquarie is considering purchasing the UK’s emergency radio network, Airwave (more masts and transmitters) from Telefonica.

*Update 19Apr, this is now confirmed.

There also Macquarie Media Group, which has recently bought American Consolidated Media, its first print acquisition.

And that’s just the broadcasting assets, other pies the group has fingers in include energy trading and car parks and it is also London’s water supplier.

Written by Robert

14 April, 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Business, Convergence

What are online directory services for?

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Old world solution looking for a problem?

This article about directory business Thomson Local, has made me wonder: In the world of online search, what are online directories for, and why are they still here?

I just got a new phone and wanted to buy a sturdy cover for it.  Did I nip over to Yellow Pages and search for a phone cover manufacturer?  Of course not! I didn’t even imagine that was an option.  I got onto Froogle.

I can sort-of see the point of having a directory for niche products or services, eg. rental property mortgage brokers. But when it comes to things like Dentists, isn’t that what a website + search engine, and (increasingly likely) a professional social-networking profile is for?

I always think of an online directory as something which was useful, not not after search engine spiders came along.

What are directories offering that search engines don’t? It’s interesting that Google and Yahoo both keep their directory sites (although they’re now dynamic and constantly re-indexing).

Presumably it’s wise for business to list in as many places as possible, but I don’t think I’d pay a directory service for that simple service.

Genuinely, am I missing something?  If you know the secret of a web directory’s success, please let me know.

Written by Robert

12 April, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Business