A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Inside the Islamic State propaganda machine:

Senior media operatives are treated as “emirs” of equal rank to their military counterparts. They are directly involved in decisions on strategy and territory. They preside over hundreds of videographers, producers and editors who form a privileged, professional class with status, salaries and living arrangements that are the envy of ordinary fighters.

For all the drone-driven military success, the reporting paints a picture of ISIS winning the online war. The consequences? Effective terror and recruitment. Troubling.

A very long time ago, I accepted a Three mobile broadband dongle for review. The experience was something of a mixed bag, with it rapidly proving useless once I travelled beyond major urban centres. Seven years is a long time in technology, though, and mobile broadband is now an essential part of my life – enough that I get a data connection for my iPhone AND my iPad as soon as I go abroad these days.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Three again, this time to review one of their portable wifi hotspots the Huawei E5330. Now, I must confess in advance that in the years between the two review opportunities, I’ve become a Three customer, using their service for both my iPhone and my iPad. I no longer have any serious concerns about their network coverage.

Two things tickled my curiosity this time around:

  1. I’ve been wondering for a while if I really needed to be buying a 4G-capable version of the iPad (especially with the iPad Pro now on sale…). Could I save myself a bunch of cash next time around and just use a WiFi version with tethering from a MiFi-like device?
  2. While I often tether off my phone to give my laptop connection on the move, that has some very serious consequences for the battery life of the phone. And as any regular iPhone user knows, you don’t want to be eroding that battery faster than your have to.

The WiFi hub in your pocket

And you know what, technology really moves on, doesn’t it? All the faff of plugging a dongle in and connecting using specialist software is a thing of the past. Once your tiny ( and really pocketable) hub is charged up, you hit the on switch, and within a few seconds, you’re online. Apple’s habit of sharing your credentials between devices automatically meant that I didn’t even have to think about it, once I’d manually connected one device (although this was to have consequences, too…). My iPad happily grabbed the signal, but my phone did, too, unless I manually intervened. Open my laptop, and it was online, too.

Three mobile broadband in use

Despite my joy at the lack of dialler software, it’s well worth grabbing and downloading the phone app that supports the hub. It gives a bunch of extra control over the device – and a quick way of checking your allowance. And that, it transpired, is something that I should have done more quickly…

The connection speed was OK, without being remarkable. I’m spoiled by having 4G on all my devices, and the hub is restricted to 3G speeds – something I could distinctly feel on occasion. But on the coastway to London route I used the hub the most, I was able to get a reliable connection for most of the journey, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Well, until it all stopped working, that is.

One man’s insatiable appetite for data

Perhaps I should have restricted my use of the hub to my iPad – but no, I couldn’t resist using it to get my laptop online on my commutes into London (1¼ hours either way – but I normally get a table, so can get loads of work done.) And so I killed the 1GB allowance – in a week. It’s easy to forget how fast laptops can eat data, and that’s exactly what I did. Idiotically, I didn’t realise that the promised “massive” 12Gb of data allowance meant 1Gb per month, and that was that.

And I have to confess that I haven’t rushed to top it up, either. Once you move off contract, the data rates are actually pretty spicy. Certainly enough that I held back from buying more data that month, and slunk back to tethering from my phone, sucking up the battery hit, but enjoying the 4G speeds again.

Do I miss it? Yes. It was nice being able to just click the hotspot on and have working WiFi anywhere. Will I stay with the hub? No – not this one. If I’m going to pay for broadband like this, I’ll certainly go for 4G. 3G is yesterday’s tech, and access speed is important enough to me that I’ll pay a little more for it.


  1. Skip the Huawei E5330. Get the 4G capable E5573.
  2. Buy a more generous data plan if you plan on working with your laptop as well as your tablet.
  3. Actually, maybe the SIM-enabled iPad isn’t worth the money after all…

Smart move by Twitter:

Mark Little, the founder of News Corp owned social news agency Storyful, has been hired as a senior executive across Twitter’s international operation.

Few people have been as successful in recognising the potential of combining the output of new and social media with the values of traditional media as Mark. Storyful led the way on systemic verification and use of material from social networks in mainstream reporting.

As Twitter is very clearly interested in exploring that intersection further, Mark seems like a really good hire for them.

Engineering bootcamp

As anyone who has been trained by me of late will know, Facebook is the 1000lb gorilla in the traffic generation game right now. It’s been steadily rising as a percentage of traffic referrals to publisher sites, and it by far blows away all other forms of social media. Despite journalists’ obsession with Twitter, it is far less powerful in driving traffic than its big blue rival.

Social Media Traffic Referrals Report Q4 2014 graph

All of which makes news like this disquieting for publishers:

Referral traffic (desktop + mobile) to the top 30 Facebook publishers (as defined by their reliance on Facebook) plunged 32 percent from January to October, according to SimpleReach, a distribution analytics company. The more reliant the publisher on Facebook, the bigger the hit: Among the top 10, the drop was a steeper 42.7 percent.

Impact of Facebook algorithm changes

At least some of that is attributable to a Facebook newsfeed algorithm change, which targeted news sites:

Facebook altered its code in July, and statistics show that the top 25 news organisations saw a fall of 15% within a month of interactions with their content through the social medium.

The worst affected of those was the Huffington Post, which saw its interactions fall by nearly half, from just above 45 million to slightly above 25 million.

LATEST facebook

This is, perhaps, understandable. Nobody wakes up in the morning and logs into Facebook to read the news. That might be what they end up doing – but they’re actually there to keep up with friends and family. If the newsfeed swings too far towards journalism, and too far from photos and videos of your mates, Facebook loses its key competitive driver.

We are only ever going to be a bit part player in the news feed, a second fiddle to the social interactions that make up the majority of the newsfeed. (That’s why, incidentally, creating content that triggers social interactions is so important in newsfeed success.)

Is the future pay-to-play on Facebook?

And there may be more bad news for Facebook-dependent publishers to come. As Mathew Ingram points out:

The other nagging fear for media companies is that Facebook is essentially engaging in a large-scale bait and switch, by encouraging them to host all of their output on its platform, but then gradually turning off the traffic tap so that their reach declines. At that point, the social network can recommend a number of ways to boost the reach again—including by paying for promoted posts and other forms of advertising.

Everyone working in social media marketing will be nodding sagely right now – because that’s pretty much exactly what happened to the organic reach of marketing pages. That’s pretty much a pay-to-play game right now.

Any sensible publisher seeks a balanced range of traffic sources, so they’re not too vulnerable to a shift by a single player – especially an algorithmically-driven one. This is just another reminder of what that should be the case.


YouTube celebrities – like comicbookgirl19 above – are the fastest growing media stars of our age, yet a group much of the mainstream media seems utterly unaware of. There’s an interesting piece arguing that female YouTube celebrities have greater influence amongst viewers than traditional celebrities, because they’re seen as having more agency – more control over their own image and business:

The reason being, the way a YouTube star will approach social media is fundamentally different from the way a mainstream celebrity like Taylor Swift is going to approach their Instagram account or social media. The mainstream celebrity is using social media as just another platform to project the same images, ideas and positioning, whereas the YouTube stars and digital influencers are using social media as an inherent part of theirDNA. If the fundamental flaw from the get-go is the positioning of that celebrity and whether that celebrity’s positioning is actually credible or authentic, it doesn’t matter on how many different platforms you express that positioning; it is not going to make much of a difference.

It makes an interesting counterpoint to Alanis Morissette’s reflection on Jagged Little Pill after 20 years – and how she struggled to keep her own voice within the traditional celebrity system:

But my growing desire to write in the no-holds-barred way that I now dwell in was being discouraged…under the guise that “no one wants to hear this from you, not the least of whom is your manager.” Oh. I wasn’t aware that I was writing my songs and expressing myself to make sure my manager was happy. Perhaps my burgeoning sexuality and coming-of-age were being made evident through the imagery in videos I started to shoot — nothing wildly gratuitous, but an indication of the sorts of places I wanted to further explore in my art, in my music.

I suspect the creative limitations of the next generation won’t be about managers or labels, but about necessary ways of behaving to get the reach and eyeballs needed to keep their publishing platforms working in their favour.

I wonder how long before we see a YouTube celeb release their own app for the new Apple TV?

A day at work watching YouTube videos:

A guy in a hamster suit falling over at a children’s birthday party also gets the nod. It reminds him of a video his company approved a few weeks ago—Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck performing the Nae Nae. He rejects “Close Call Canoeists.” I kind of like it (especially at 1:45), but he doesn’t.

It may sound like Granzow is wasting time at work, but he’s sifting for gold. And the airy, warehouse-like building of glass and exposed beams where he works is full of people just like him. He’s a researcher at Jukin Media, a small company in Los Angeles that identifies extremely shareable videos, strikes deals with the people who own them, and then licenses the clips.

A fascinating glimpse into the world of licensing and monetising viral videos. Juke Media essentially turns the world into a viral video production sandbox, and sifts the best out for rapid monetisation.

Stealing the punchline from Peter Yeung’s interview with Malcolm Coles of The Telegraph:

There’s no way I’d have predicted the end of 2015 at the beginning of the year, so I’ve no bloody idea what’s going to happen in 2025. But I’m sure cat GIFs will still be important.

Not the most profound insight from an interview full of them – but certainly the most amusing.

(This year’s Interhacktives have really hit the ground running with the site this year – check it out.)

How Twitter went bad:

In other words, on Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”

Social Media is both conversational, and “publication”, in that it’s on the record, for the long-term. And, as society, we’re struggling to reconcile the co-existence of these two ideas in a new form.

This is the fulcrum of a fascinating and well-researched article that places Twitter in an historical context that makes the current – and mainly cultural – problems it’s encountering much more understandable. Bookmark it, and read it at your leisure.

Emily Bell on the consequences of replacing Twitter’s stars – “favourites” – with hearts – “likes”:

I found myself not bookmarking, as I would have done a day earlier, a horrifying image retweeted by journalists depicting men using phones to film a woman being stoned to death for adultery. I did not “like” let alone “love” the image but wanted to note it as important. We must have a system which allows for capturing the significant as well as the appealing.

Now, this might be, as Martin Belam has suggested of other criticisms, a power-user problem. But equally, Emily is quite right in identifying this as a cultural shift in the platform, and changing the culture of a social space, changes that space.

I’ve had two truly memorable interviews in my life. In one, one of the interviewers was clearly drunk, and her colleague was more interested in giving her the stink eye than in interviewing me – yet I got the job anyway.

In the other, for a place at university, the professor was clearly enjoying it hugely. Finally she turned around, and said that I had the place if I wanted it, as she was delighted to interview someone switching from studying physics at Imperial to english literature at QMW (now QMUL).

“I’m so bored of interviewing people with double English and History,” said Professor Lisa Jardine. And then she gave me my second chance at a university education in a way that completely changed my life.

She died at the weekend, and we are poorer for it.

Memories of Lisa Jardine

Professor Lisa jardine

Image courtesy of The Royal Society

Her lectures were free-flowing and rambunctious. She talked with us, not at us. It made her lectures one of the highlights of my week, and has deeply influenced my own lecturing style, now I have my own little foothold in academia.

She never scheduled anything for her undergrads before 10am while I was there because “she had teenagers and knew there was no point”.

She brought a human, likeable face to academic success – and rigour – and that, along with her recruitment policies (favouring mature students and those from unusual background) made for a dynamic English Department. Yes, English Department – she was head of that department when I studied under her. Not History. Not Science. But that’s the thing about polymaths – they don’t respect the boundaries of these categories.

Many of her obituaries have highlighted this side of her character:

She could properly be called a polymath, fluent in five languages and, as comfortable with the sciences as she was with the humanities, the breadth of her scholarship and the depth of her understanding of so many subjects was awe-inspiring.

But it was obvious to all of us who studied under her. She was far more interested in the work that the games of position or form. She carried with her an intimidating – but inspiring – mix of enthusiasm and rigour. But most of all, she instilled in me healthy disrespect for the artificial ramming of knowledge and investigation into the little boxes we call “disciplines”. In that, she set the stage for my current “career”. And for that, I will ever be grateful to her.

I last spoke to her on my graduation day, where, as we shook hands on stage, I said “I didn’t expect to do this well.”

She gave me a huge grin, and replied: “I didn’t, either.” And then her grin grew wider. And that meant a lot more to me than the 2:1 I’d just been awarded.

Back in 2009, I blogged about her for the first Ada Lovelace Day. And in the years since I’ve enjoyed her books and her broadcasting. But most of all, I’ve made deep use of the lessons that she taught me that had nothing to do with English Literature.

RIP Professor Jardine. And thank you.