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

Archive for May 2007

What’s ITV News got that’s worth £2?

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A curmudgeonly skinflint writes

ITV launched a new mobile phone video news service this week.  It costs £2 to subscribe for a week’s worth of downloads and I’m still trying to think of a reason why I might.

Don’t get me wrong, there certainly will be moments worth viewing, but probably not everyday and in that case what mechanism do ITV have to alert me to something engaging, so that I’ll grab my mobile phone and look at their video?

And if the news is *that* big, then other outlets will have it, and I’m going to be able to get it for nothing.

The update bulletin comes at the start and end of the day, so they’ll have a tough job competing against the quality newspapers and freesheets, which rule the commuters’ precious travel slots.

Perhaps ITV News would pull in more eyeballs if they were to show a bit more of this.

Coincidentally (how’s this for juxtaposition), CNN also chose this week to abandon their web video pay service, Pipeline.

“People don’t like to pay for stuff on the internet”, said the CNN spokesperson.  She’s too broad there, there’s loads of things worth paying for, but simply copying the material that freely available on other platforms and sticking it on a webpage, or a phone, isn’t one of them.


Written by Robert

26 May, 2007 at 2:27 am

Non-linear TV comes racing towards us

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Having had a hard disk recording my TV programmes for nearly 3 years now, I’ve always wondered why it’s taking so long for everyone else to work out how completely brilliant they are.

But now Sky are dropping the subscription on their Sky+ recorder I think the change is upon us.

However, I think Freeview Playback is going to be more popular in time, and when most people are watching most of their viewing from the disk, rather than live, some interesting possibilities emerge.

You could start a ‘virtual’ channel.  The BBC could close BBC3 as a scheduled channel, and use the bandwidth to send metadata-rich programmes straight to hard disk recorders.

The ‘channel’ consists of all the programmes, complete with all the interstitials and a suggested playlist, which if you select it, will create the channel for you, just as a scheduler does now.

It’s much more bandwidth efficient, as you only have to send each programme once.

Written by Robert

23 May, 2007 at 10:24 pm

At last! BBC News embeds video in pages

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This may not be the first page to feature it, but it’s the first I’ve seen.

Report on MIT MediaLab Scratch animation tool

First it’s great to see embedded video on the news website – it’s so much less hassle than opening the restrictive ‘Media Selector’.  Secondly, it’s Flash, so it just works!

Please allow me a brief ‘told you so’ moment, I so rarely get them.

Some years ago, colleagues (John Angeli, Jon Kossmann, Asha Oberoi) and I earnestly tried to tell those in power at the time that Flash was a platform worthy of further development.

We even produced our own ‘skunkworks’ flash video site (now updated) to show that :

a) it worked

b) it was simple

c) you could do far more interesting interactive elements than you could within the video codecs in use at the time.

See if you agree:   BBC News Iraq Special

Written by Robert

15 May, 2007 at 1:20 am

Posted in Media, Software, Technology

Who else is having trouble recruiting?

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Every now and again I read something which makes me think “thank goodness someone else is having the same problems!”

I’m talking about recruitment.  Here’s an interesting interview with the head of mega marketing/comms company Interpublic, Michael Roth.

Over half his senior management have changed in the 3 years he’s been at the top, and it’s hard to find the right people lower down too.

This is exactly the issue I’m finding with the companies I work with.  There’s no shortage of people coming through the door for interviews, but the quality of the people who you end up in front of you can be deeply disappointing.

That means you either have to drop your recruitment standards, or lure with more competitive compensation.  I’ve seen both done, the former nearly always for operational reasons.

Here’s a website which calculates the cost of staff turnover.  The results may surprise you.

Here’s a story that’s a few years old about recruitment issues and their costs, not that the age matters.  The issues remain the same and may actually get worse as the speed of business and technology change increases.

Written by Robert

11 May, 2007 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Business

Making online + paper publishing successful

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The secret is to mix it up 

Apple currently have a marketing campaign showing how their products are revolutionising the Washington Post. The short promo video is worth watching.

Yes, it’s an ad, but there are some important lessons in this video, and the Washington Post is one of the publications I admire for their ability to understand the depth of change which is required in their operation.  They have learnt they have to follow the audience as well as lead them, in order to keep them coming back for more.

Executive Editor Jim Brady has a key quote in the promo and he realises something which comes quite naturally to broadcast-trained reporters but is new to their print cousins: story treatment.  Just because it works well on the page doesn’t mean it’ll work the same way in video, or vice-versa.

“In print you’ve already decided how you’re telling the story, you’re gonna tell it via text, occasionally a couple of photos. [But online] what’s the story? Let’s sit down and figure out how to best tell it. Is this a story that best told only through video? A gallery? A mix of video and text?”

By the way, did you notice how the promo video is mostly just animated stills?  That’s treatment.

Written by Robert

8 May, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Newspapers, Technology

It’s not the BBC the newspapers need to worry about, it’s ITV Local

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At the time of the BBC Local TV trial last year, newspapers were worried that a more locally focused television service would be a reason not to read local newspapers.

Whether you think that’s true or not (and I don’t) the trial has had a good effect in mobilising newspapers into producing video, some with better results than others. However consent for the service is travelling down the BBC Trust’s approval process which looks like it could take the rest of the year.

The BBC also has less money to spend overall which either puts the Local TV launch in jeopardy or means  the suggestions Mark Thompson made about paying local newspapers for their stories now look doubtful.

I’m worried that newspaper groups will take the foot off the development accelerator at just the point at which they’ve been given some breathing space to beat the beeb at their own game.

There’s another reason to surge forward because ITV Local is an altogether different disruptor. This one is a direct threat. The BBC just wants to stay relevant with local audiences, ITV not only wants the local audience, (and it’s wooing the younger crowds) it wants a share of local newspaper advertising.

Look at the ITV Local website, there are some critical things there. The inclusion of the local business finder, is enormously strategic to ITV – they bought directory service Scoot late in 2006.

With that purchase, they get access to Scoot’s classifieds listings (which they’re currently promoting as a free way to sell your stuff). This is a lot more sensible than the previous plan to encourage viewers to send in video classifieds.

There’s the standard property, motoring, jobs, dating options too.

For interest – here’s ITV Local’s ratecard. How does it compare to your newspaper’s? And what might be the effect on your newspaper when ITV starts promoting the new service in earnest peak time on regional TV?

There’s a period of tough and bold decision making ahead.

Video is part of the modern infomation provider’s toolkit, but doing it well takes time and is more expensive than text-based reporting. But think to the future when local video won’t be something you watch on a website. It will be on your television and any mobile device you happen to have to hand.

This means some serious investment and groups like the Guardian realise it.

Establish partnerships. If you can’t make authoritative TV, link with someone who can. If you don’t have the necessary technical support, buy it. If you don’t have the answers there are consultants around like me who can take months off your planning and implementation processes.

The boldest move of all is the simplest : Who’s going to be the first newspaper to partner with ITV Local?

Written by Robert

3 May, 2007 at 7:19 pm