One Man and His Blog: December 2009 Archives

December 2009 Archives

December 31, 2009

2009: The Top Ten Posts of the Year

And so 2009 prepares its exit, and what an interesting year it has been. I'd be hard-pressed to describe it as a good year, but at least it wasn't as bad as 2008, by virtue of not having something really traumatic happen. But a year that has seen titles close, many colleagues find themselves redundant and the whole industry adopt a siege mentality is not something that could be described as "good".

That said, conversely, it has been one of the most satisfying of my working life, as I've been heavily involved in a much more wholesale effort to retrain people within RBI for the new era of publishing, and more directly involved with allowing some titles to set their strategy for the recession and beyond. And it is satisfying to be in a company that didn't stick its head in the sand as to the changes that were coming. 

More than that, though, this is the year that the changes moved from "coming" to "here". Things that I, and many bloggers like me, have been predicting for several years are starting to come true. Social publishing and use of social media is a significant part of our business now, and it is deeply impacting all forms of media. Being right, even in horrible times, can be surprisingly satisfying. Just call me "Cassandra". :-)

But really, the big issues of the year can best be captured by looking at the posts that were most popular this year...

My Most Popular Posts of 2009

1. NUJ: "effin' blogs" - the post that kicked off a blog storm. I post something that I saw in my referrer logs, and within a week The Guardian are talking to me about it, people are questioning my professionalism, and trying to pull the conversation into closed mailing lists where they can (and did) insult me personally without public view and accountability. I came very, very close to leaving the union over this. 
2. Dean Street Fire: Most Recorded Yet? - I republished a YouTube video of the fire, and sat happily near the top of Google searches for "Dean Street Fire". I linked through to some other coverage. The traffic just kept coming. 
3. The Day Twitter Destroyed a Gagging Order - a quick summary of the Trafigura incident with links to full coverage and details elsewhere. Much-tweeted. 
4. NUJ: Stil Not "Getting" Social Media - the post that led to the "effin' blogs" incident - in which I register my disgust with the way people within the NUJ responded to a colleague's post. 
5. The Content Paywall Ostriches - one of the first of a series of posts where I picked at the shallowness of the debate around content paywalls that dominated journalism blogging towards the end of 2009. Not Tweeted much, but linked to a great deal. 
6. This Is A Bad Time To Be A Journalist If... - I'm not a great one for "list blogging" despite all the reputed traffic benefits of it. This one just begged to be written, though, and had a "zombie" life when, several weeks after it was first posted, a whole new bunch of people picked up on it and started tweeting it. 
7. We Never Sold Journalism - An earlier blast in the paywall discussion, in which I make my first attack on the elephants in the room in the debate. Linked to by The Telegraph, which helped the traffic quite a bit...
8. The WordPress Attack, Competition and Blogging innovation: My only post about new publishing tech that hit the top 10. My disquiet about the dominance of WordPress in blogging software feels much the same as my worries about Windows in the late 90s. I draw that analogy here, which, rather gratifyingly, kicked off several discussions amongst coders about alternatives and ways of developing their own platforms. 
9. The Times versus Nightjack: Destroying Journalists' Reputation - A post triggered by an e-mail from an old student magazine colleague, who asked me what I thought of this situation (a blogger being "outed" by a national newspaper). Pretty disgusted, was the answer. Lots of people seemed to agree.
10. What Publishers Need To Understand - Another "oh, for goodness' sake" post from the end of the year. And it's just quoting a comment on another article. Linking FTW.


1. Twitter matters. In the latter half of the year, Twitter was the biggest single driver of traffic to my most popular posts. If people start retweeting you, the impact on your page views can be staggering. 
2. Say something new. If there's a big debate going on, look for the things you're thinking, but you can't find anyone else saying. Or, instead, things that move the thought process beyond the immediate reaction to an event.  An original and insightful contribution to the debate will work wonders.
3. User content is popular. Two of the posts in the top ten are me pointing to something really good someone else has created elsewhere, which deserved to have attention drawn to it. This is aggregation at its best. Many of the other posts include an element of aggregation. Link. Link. Link. And then - link some more. 
4. People want explanation. There is a big market for posts that explain a situation and link through to more detail. Journalists are pretty good at reporting on things as they happen, but sometimes we need to sit back and create a quick summary for people new to the events. 
5. Debating in open spaces beats debating in closed spaces. It keeps people honest. 

For interest, here's last year's Top 10 posts

Have a great Hogmanay, and see you in 2010!

December 27, 2009

A Prediction: 2010, Social Media & Snake Oil

I made a small mistake this evening. I broke my self-imposed social media exile to retweet something by Alan Patrick, that linked to this post on his blog. And suddenly, I found myself besieged by unhappy social media pros that I respect.

There's clearly an issue here. :-)

So, let's make something clear and then make a prediction for the coming year.

The Clarification

I am not saying all social media professionals are snake oil salesmen. For the last three and a half years I have earned my living exclusively by teaching people about social media. I am, by any definition, a social media pro. I may have been indulging in some Christmas "cheer". but I have no desire to shoot myself in the foot. :-)

The fundamental problem is this: the rise of Twitter and the social networks has made creating the veneer of social media proficiency easy. There are simple ways of building large follower bases without actually accumulating any genuine influence. The article I retweeted illustrates this exponential rise of carpet-baggers, self-proclaimed gurus who are happy to take people's money for largely illusory return. And, in the meantime, those with genuine skills in this area find themselves marginalised by the charlatans.

The Prediction

So here's the challenge for those of us who have a record in this space, who have genuine experience to share and have results to back up that learning:

We have to find a way to differentiate ourselves from the snake oil salesmen.

And let's face it - it shouldn't be hard. We have networks, and influence and page rank and all the tools that we have spent years developing. We should be able to do this. Sure, most of us are busy doing the damn job, but this is important. If we don't fight back - if we don't reclaim the name from those who abuse it, we're going to create problems for ourselves in the medium term.

If we fail in this then the very words "social media" and the concepts that underlie them run the risk of being debased by the get-rich-quick merchants. And that's a situation that will take years to recover from. 

Here's my prediction: this fight is going to get more acute in the year to come, and a whole lot more vicious. 

But it needs to be fought.

And now, here's a picture of a bird just to lighten the mood:

The Church Watchman
Tweet, tweet. :)

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Christmas Decoration

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas.

As you've probably noticed, I'm taking a wee break from the blog right now, but I'll be back before New Year with some reviews of the year…

In the meantime, have a great festive season.

December 16, 2009

What's Going On With Twitter and #uksnow?

Snow has come to London:

Those of you on Twitter may be seeing tweets like this in your stream:

#uksnow SM2 4/10

What the heck's that all about? Simple. It's a crowd-sourced method of tracking snow levels across the country that came into its own back in February, when the really heavy snows hit. All those tweets are being compiled onto a map to give a visual and rapidly-updated picture of what the snowfall across the country looks like. Neat, huh?

The #uksnow map
So that tweet is made up of:

  1. #uksnow - the hashtag that allows identification of relevant tweets
  2. SM2 - the first half of my postcode, allowing geolocation of the information
  3. 4/10 - a measure of the heaviness of the snowfall, where 0 is none at all and 10 would be a whiteout...
A neat little mash-up by Ben Marsh

December 15, 2009

Time to Kick the Controversy Habit

At a meeting this morning, I told a prospective newbie blogger that intentional controversy was often a massively over-rated virtue. In the light of this, I couldn't help but find myself nodding vigorously in agreement with this piece by Umair Haque:

To play the opinion arb game, news publishers have to stop seeking simply the most controversial opinions. They're abundant: every talking head can churn one out, and faux "news" of every kind is already chock full of 'em shrieking at one another. Instead, successful opinion arbitrageurs must seek the most informed opinions, gooey with expertise, thick with real value for readers.

Those opinions are worth the most -- and they're what readers will pay for.

Elephant in the room #2 when it comes to paywalls: you might have to change the nature of what your write and publish to make them work.

A Day in the Life of a Blog Platform

One of the nice things about having system admin rights for the Movable Type install that powers the 150+ blogs we're running right now is that I can see all comments as they come into the system, and guage what's attracting attention.


Makes me think back with amusement to the days when journalists would tell me quite sincerely  that nothing serious could be done on blogs...

December 10, 2009

Le Web: Finis

And that's it. Le Web 2009 is done and dusted.

The End is Here
By far the best organised Le Web yet, and plenty to enjoy in the schedule. Some quibbles, to be sure, and I'll get to those in a later post. But all in all, a success and well worth a few days of my time.

Bon nuit!

Le Web: Chris Sacca on Douchebags, Pr0n and Lube

Chris Sacca
Three more words, but this time for 2010 (and quite rude) from Christopher Sacca of Lowercase Capital:


"I'm optimistic about the demise of the douchebag", says . There are millions of them online, and they disrupt online conversations. In the early days they seized controls of the web. The real time web brings us authenticated identity systems - so we're verified against a real community: the real web! (Especially with location information). And we'll get more collaborative action from that. 


I wish I could say I've never seen a man getting excited about graphics before, but I have. I work in publishing. But actually, he's talking about data - and all the platforms are offering more and more data. And that is eventually going to enrich the services we provide. 


Amazon and iTunes have made it so easy to purchase things and they've removed so much friction from it that people develop "habits". Web services need to remove that friction. Posterous allows you to just e-mail stuff to them without any account creation. They provide value first, and then you can encourage them to sign up. 

Le Web: Kevin Marks' Words that Define the Web

Kevin Marks
Great presentation from Kevin Marks about the words that help to define the understanding of the way the web is changing things. Some negative, some positive and some neutral. 

Rather than information being pushed to us through a decisive act like sending an e-mail, we receive it in a flow of activity from following people. We need to learn to live (adapt?) to the flow.

We expect the personal, and the personalised. A large part of our brain is about faces. 

"If there's someone you have a model of in your head, someone you know, you do care about what they had for lunch, that they're in Paris." You can follow someone without them agreeing it it first. 

Semi-overlapping publics
There are many public - everyone on the web sees a different world (a point danah made earlier). When we follow people we collect a peer group to interpret and make sense of the world. And then they become filters.

Small world Networks. 
It's easy for information to flow through them, because there are both short range and long-range links. 

People decide that other people don't belong. It's analogous to countries. 

People who connect - the "life and soul of the party". 

Le Web: The French Minister for Digital Culture

Nathalie Kosciusko Morizet
I'm not au fait enough with French culture to blog Nathalie Kosciusko Morizet's speech well. (See what I did there? :-) ) However, I liked the photo, so here it is... 

I'll link a good post when I find one. (All I'm finding now is shoe obsession...)

Le Web: Getting Real with Corporate Social Media

Brian Solis
There seems to be a pleasing trend against social media idealism and towards the hard reality faced by people doing this stuff day-in, day-out. As Brian Solis put it during the real time marketing panel: "We all have to report to people who don't give a shit about authenticity."

He got a round of applause for his trouble. 

"Breaking the fourth wall is when we start to engage," he said. "And I want them looking at me through that wall, because I don't want them looking at my ass."

Steve Rubel took up the theme with a regular message from his boss: "No more airy-fairy - the days of airy-fairy are over."

So, what have they been replaced with? "What does getting real mean? Business case. What is the business case we're trying to solve? What is the business value? The more we can link what we are doing to the pan and not the puff and sizzle and lard, the more successful we'll be."

Matthias Luefkens
Interestingly, it was Matthias Luefkens of the World Economic Forum who tried to drag this back to the airy-fairy: "ROI is Return on Involvement. Get out there and get involved." Uh, yes. But how? And how do you justify it?

Rubel came back on this "Return on time; return on attention is the most important thing. Our customers' attention is not being talked about enough, and that's disrespectful."

And Richard Binhammer of Dell was keen to point out that you didn't have to involve the top level people day-to-day: "It's not always the CEO people want to connect with. In our business, it's often the engineers."

His argument was that a significant engineer spending an hour or so on social media allows him to reach enough people that it would take hours of conference visits and conference visits to match - and there's a huge cost benefit inherent on that.

Solis, though, pointed out that in man companies there is one person paid to do this, and some are earning in the $100,000 range (if there are any jobs with that level of pay on offer, my e-mail address is on the contact page ;-) ). If it's costing the firm, say, $25 per tweet, can you justify the business case for that? 

Le Web: Queen Rania of Jordon

Queen Rania of Jordan
And now, possibly our most high-profile speaker, Queen Rania of Jordan. Genuine royalty, rather than the metaphorical tech royalty...

It's interesting that Queen Rania finds that social media allows her more human relationships with people, dispelling the air of slight deference people take on automatically when around her.

Michael Jackson's death wiped Iran from the Twitter tending list. Did his demise change the course of the Green Revolution? No. It's more complex than that - but it illustrates how fleeting social activism can be on social network. 

BUT real time is the new prime time - it's a place for news, information. collaboration and organisation. 

Number of kids out of school worldwide? 15 times the population of Paris.

In the end, this talk is a call for us to move our activism in social media beyond a hashtag and a sense of self-satisfaction. And that's a message I can buy into.

She's encouraging us to to devote "1 Day for 1 Goal" - to use our social media outlets to talk about the child education issue for one day. You might have other causes you support. But I think she has a point. The hashtag campaigning has shown that people have a hunger to do more to deal with problems. It's time to stop being so idealistic and be a little more pragmatic about how social media can change things - as danah's talk so ably illustrated. 

[Once again, Steph has more notes]

Le Web: danah boyd on Social Network Visibility

danah boyd at Le Web
Your experience of the social web is not the same as everyone else's. Your experience of the web is shaped by the people you chose to follow, and those who choose to follow others will have vastly different experiences.

So, danah, as a sociologist, actively strives to looks at environments beyond her own. 

She gives the example of a student who applied to an Ivy League in the US, who submitted a great application, but his MySpace page was that of a typical gang member. He is trying to survive where he is, but aspiring to be elsewhere - and the admissions tutor struggled to accept that dichotomy and assumed he was lying.

Another example: a father who say his daughter's social network profile, and on it was a quiz. That quiz gave you the answer to "what drug are you?". His daughter was cocaine - but instead of blowing up, he opened a conversation about it with her. 

Jane Jacob's idea of "eyes on the street" - community watchfulness. Ideas of privacy as a safety construct in a public space?

"As I wonder the web looking at what's going on, I see kids calling out, begging for help".

Some parents believe that the internet has created a new level of bullying - but it hasn't. It's just made more visible by the internet. This is a call to action - how do we make sense of it?

People have a crisis moment when technology makes visible things they are not comfortable with (for good or ill - one example was triggered racism around Black Entertainment awards).

The illegal has existing methods for getting rid of it. It's those things where people need help we need to think about. How do we get social services involved.

"We need to embrace and deal with the visibility... Think about what you can see now that you could never see before and what you can do about it."

December 9, 2009

Le Web: Marissa Mayer of Google

Marissa MayerMarissa Mayer's appearances at Le Web have never been particularly noteworthy. She's very good at giving the corporate line persuasively, but rarely gives out anything really juicy. It's good to see Mike Arrington doing the interview this time, simply because she is being forced to work around some tougher questions.

I walked into the session after a meeting with some Six Apart folks to find her working carefully around some Murdoch and paywall-related questions. Google respects copyrights, she said carefully, and think it would be a shame is Murdoch pulled his content from the index. She didn't answer the question about paying publishers to index their content, but carefully redirected the discussion towards their other content monetisation strategies. 

Where her appearances do become interesting is when she talks about the rationalisation behind new products. For example, real time search. Mayer was using Twitter for ski and snow updates, using Twitter search, because official sources don't give true reports of snow depth. Ordinary people have no reason to lie about it. 

"If you combine real time and social search, you can actually search the web your way. The perfect search engine would be credentialled as you, crawl the web as you, and show you that content. That's a long way away."

Le Web: Scenes from the Morning

Le Web: Chris Pirillo on Genuine Community

Chris Pirillo
Chris Pirillo has just given the most animated keynote of the conference so far, talking with great passion about community. While he occasionally came across like a self-help guru, he clearly believed passionately in the point he was making:

"You can't create a community; it creates itself. It's organic, no matter what the tool."

Indeed, he suggests that it's far less about the tool than the people who use it. 

And that's an uncomfortable message for companies that are busy building communities around their brand (or trying to)

"If you think community is a tool, you are a tool." That was his message for the most cynical of community builders.

In total, Pirillo's speech is a counter-blast to the corporate appropriation of the idea of community; to the idea that we can look at something that has evolved naturally and organically, and start doing it in a calculated, commercial way for the benefit of a business.

Continue reading Le Web: Chris Pirillo on Genuine Community.

Le Web: The Platform Roundtable

The Platform Panel
A whole bunch of Big Name companies on stage, all claiming to be platforms. Mr Techcrunch in the chair...

Mike Arrington kicked off by pushing Mike Jones from MySpace hard on the relative failure of MySpace's identity standard, and asked if oAuth and Facebook Connect were the winners. Jones pushed back with the idea that it would be damaging to have only one identity standard (but that skirts around the oAuth issue...) and Kevin Eyres of LinkedIn pointed out that people might want to split personal and professional identities and graphs - and LinkedIn has its own APIs right now. 

Cristian Cussen of Ning took a different angle to the social graph. Facebook and LinkedIn are about existing relationships, he suggests, but Ning facilitates the creation of new relationship - communicating around common topics of interest. They're stepping back a little from Friending as the core of activity of the site. 
Continue reading Le Web: The Platform Roundtable.

Le Web: MySpace goes Real Time

Ah, MySpace. Once the poster child of social networks, now a huge online hub for music. 

And it wants to push that into the real time world, creating the ability to see how music trends are developing all over the world. 

MySpace is opening up the activity streams of its users for application developers. This is pushed out in real time, so you can create rich real time experiences including MySpace's data.

Monica Keller of MySpace
The first users of the streams are:

  • Google
  • OneRiot
  • Groovy
The new APIs allow the sharing of user profile data between MySpace and outside services, and well as the writing of data backwards and forwards between the service, including photos, etc. 

And they're using a whole shopping list of open standards to do this:

  • OpenID
  • oAuth
  • PubSubHubbub
  • OpenSocial
  • OpenSearch

Le Web: The Twitter Ecosystem

Ryan Sarver of Twitter

Next up is Ryan Sarver, the director the the Twitter platform, who appears to be going to thank the entire world before he starts saying anything interesting.

The company knew it needed to work with developers if they were to be an information network for the web. 2 years ago there was one app. Now? There are 50,000 of them. That's the potential of simple and open apis, suggests Sarver. Different developers are providing different views. Tweetie? Simple. Seesmic? Rich. 

  • CoTweet: allows brands to monitor and participate in the existing conversations around their brand
  • OneRiot: An alternative search of Twitter. Twitter is happy for people to search content they host on other services - and you can see that with the deals they've done.
  • TweetMeme: Allows you to track how your tweets propagate over time.
The business model is to allow money to flow through Twitter to platform partners... That's right. They're looking to form commercial alliances with people who are building charged service on top of Twitter.

Firehose for everyone! Access to the direct feed of all Twitter activity in real time that they have done deals with Google and Bing to provide is coming for everyone - but the details of how (and how much) are yet to come. 

Oh, and they're launching a developer site. 

And upping the rate limit to 15,000 calls per hour as long as you're logged in through OAuth. And they're going to be offering browser-less OAuth for browser-less apps. AND basic authentication (non-OAuth) is going away in June 2010.

Chirp will be their first developer conference.

Le Web: Facebook and the Technology of Networks

Ethan Beard
On to social media.

Ethan Beard of Facebook is talking about the basis of the social network in the basic human need for connection. In fact, a lot of what a human being is can be represented by the connections between people and ideas that appeal to them - and Facebook can create that representation. 

Facebook aspires to be more than a website, but instead to be a technology that allows people to connect with the people and things they like. The platform is extending from being a place for applications within the site, to Facebook Connect, which allows you to bring Facebook into your own sites. And there are companies making good profits almost exclusively on the Facebook platform.

80,000 sites are now using Facebook Connect, with around 60 million people taking advantage of it...

They're adding e-mail address sharing to Facebook Connect. Huffington Post users can see what stories their friends are using, because the social graph that lives in Facebook comes across - but it can also be use to push content back into Facebook and drive traffic back to the site. HuffPost's comments jumped by 50% after adding Facebook Connect. 

JibJab is using Facebook Connect to allow users to pull their photos straight in from Facebook to the JbJab videos.  

Le Web: Mobile Apps

A good chunk of the morning has been taken up with talking about mobile, and its role in the future of the web. Jack Dorsey's talk was about Square, his platform for mobile payments. 

The Le Web iPhone app is a pretty good example of how mobile can add real value against the paper product. It can be updated at 2am the night before the conference, for example (as Loïc admitted on stage). But it's more than just listings - it allows aggregation of content created around the conference. It's built on a platform called MobileRoadie.

Scoble at Le Web 2009
And onwards to a panel about mobile. This should be riveting, but isn't somehow. The panel seem to be deep in statements of the obvious, including repeatedly stating that it isn't all about the iPhone, despite Scoble asking people to hold up their iPhones, and virtually everyone in the pres/blogger pit having one. 

So, many of the network providers are rubbish and hard to deal with, and Nokia still ships more phones than Apple. These are arguments that have been rehearsed to death.

I think the two key issues that seem to be coming out of the discussion are these:

  • In-app purchasing is going to be big, because it's the major path to on-going revenue for app developers
  • Discovery is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. The app store is full of apps, and being featured by Apple staff can have a huge impact on how your sales go. 

Le Web: First Impressions

Full House at Le Web
So, Le Web. My fourth time here. And after an epic queue to pick up my press pass, I'm in the conference and starting to blog/photograph/video anything of interest. 

But there's one thing really of not.

The show is packed

For the first session, with Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter, it was literally standing room only, with hundreds of people standing around the edge. Depsite the credit crunch people have turned up in force. That's a testament to people's view of how important the internet economy is going to be as we come out of recession. 

Other things of note:

  • The connectivity is fantastic - great bandwidth even with all the people here
  • It's warm, unlike last year, Almost too warm, in fact.
  • There's plenty of food and coffee
Looks like the major lessons have been learnt from 2008. Let's see how the content pans out...

December 8, 2009

Le Web: My Liveblogging Kit

Liveblogging Kit
So, I'm in Paris, settled in my hotel room, and ready to go. Here's the key kit I'll be taking with me to Le Web this year:

  • MacBook (left): My trusty laptop, which has been my workhorse for closing in on three years. Despite the leaps in what phones can do, I still need it for the full keyboard and photo and video editing.
  • Kodak Zi8 and Flip Mino HD: Not one but two pocket HD video cameras. The Flip Mino is my traditional camera, but the Zi8 will probably see more action this conference as I'm testing it out.
  • iPhone. Web. E-mail. Photo. Video. Audio. The Le Web app. Essential tool for me these days
  • Fuji Z20fd: Snappy Fuji compact, for those moments when I don't want to traipse the SLR around with me, but the iPhone won't cut it. The most endangered part of this kit.
  • EOS 500D and 70-300 Zoom Lens - The bedrock of my conference photography. As past events have show, I can grab great pics from the stage by pushing the camera's ISO high and shooting at the extreme end of the lens. 
And that's what I'll be carrying around for the next two days. Wish me luck...

December 4, 2009

Our Real Problem: The Death of the News Package

A discussion yesterday with some of the Cardiff postgraduate journalism students reminded me of one of the elements I think is missing from the paywall discussion: a really deep examination of exactly what people really paid for when they bought a print newspaper or magazine.

The reflexive journalistic answer is "news" as, after all, the clue is in the name "newspaper". My contention, though, is that we journalists have a bias towards the news element of the publication that our readers do not share. We got into journalism to "do news". They were buying a mix of news, features, comments, comics and crosswords that added up to a valuable package of information and entertainment in one handy portable product. And the cheaper bits of the paper to produce cross-subsidised the more expensive bits (ie: news). Oh, and the advertising paid for more of it than the cover price did...

So, in essence, we never really charged people for news. It was just part of a wider offer. And this is a point Google CEO Eric Schmidt has taken in an article in the Wall Street Journal:

Now the Internet has broken down the entire news package with articles read individually, reached from a blog or search engine, and abandoned if there is no good reason to hang around once the story is finished. It's what we have come to call internally the atomic unit of consumption.
Painful as this is to newspapers and magazines, the pressures on their ad revenue from the Internet is causing even greater damage. The choice facing advertisers targeting consumers in San Francisco was once between an ad in the Chronicle or Examiner. Then came Craigslist, making it possible to get local classifieds for free, followed by Ebay and specialist Web sites. Now search engines like Google connect advertisers directly with consumers looking for what they sell.
To summarise: the internet does not support the old business model that financed the printed package of journalism.
Continue reading Our Real Problem: The Death of the News Package.

December 3, 2009

Google News: Newsagent of the Web


Less than 24 hours after I made the comparison between Google and newsagents in yeterday's post, Matt Brittin, managing director of Google UK, makes that very same point in front of a committee of MPs:

"It's wrong to paint us as stealing content. We are, if you like, a virtual newsagent... "
"In a physical newsagent's, newspapers will pay the newsagent to have their newspapers in the shop. We don't charge anybody for this service. This is a free service."

You can read more about Google's response on Press Gazette and

And this story looks like it quietly kills off the idea that search engines might pay publishers for exclusive content idea.

More Paywall Discussion

adam on skyA few interesting follow-ups to my posts about the content Paywall debate:

Oh, and my piece here landed me on the slot on Sky News last night, as the above picture by former colleague Simon Loxham attests. Pre-Christmas diet ahoy...

December 2, 2009

The Murdoch/Google Phony War

Are you gripped by the Google - Murdoch battle? Are you fascinated by the clash of these print and online behemoths as they fight for the future of journalism? Are you debating the implications of Google blinking over access to paywalled content?

You fell for it.

There is no battle, bar one of posturing and PR.

Because, really how is Google actually Murdoch's competitor for the newspaper business? It is a business that has grown rich over giving people quick access to created content, and an opportunity to monetise that content, through ads. It has much the same relationship to newspaper websites as, say, newsagents did to the print title. The metaphor is not exact, but it stands. Google is not a content producer, but a way of finding it and monetising it. If your cost base does not match the potential revenue, well, that's hardly Google's fault, is it?

So why are News International execs so keen on waging this war? Oh, so many reasons.

  • Google is one of the few companies that make Murdoch's empire look like the underdog
  • It allows Murdoch to cast himself in a heroic mode: defender of journalism!
  • It builds buzz and excitement around Murdoch's plans. Publicity like that is valuable.
  • Google is a name, a big name. And one that can be used as a shorthand for the internet, and the way it operates.
But in this war of words, the true issues seem strangely absent. Where's the discussion of how newspapers can compete for readers in the age of the attention crash? Where's the careful analysis of the role of the general publication when their audience's time is being slowly eaten away by a million and one niche websites that speak more directly to them than anything a national paper publishes? Who is talking about how you rebuild publilshing companies to  account for the new economic reality of internet publishing. (The Telegraph's doing that. They're following established successful strategies. Yet everyone still talks far more about the phony war. God bless quality reporting, huh?)
Continue reading The Murdoch/Google Phony War.

December 1, 2009

Clay Shirky: The Journalism Crisis Will Get Weirder

Well worth watching, for an insight into what the "end state" of journalism might look like as we get through this transformational process:


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