Nic Newman’s Journalism, Media and Technology Predictions 2013 is a must read

I missed this when it first came out but Nic Newman‘s Journalism, Media and Technology Predictions 2013 is a must read.

There’s lots of detailed fascinating insight and analysis with case studies and examples and I’ve shared the executive summary below:

  • The coming year will mark the BIG switch to mobile computing. It will overtake desktop use for news – in turn driving more mobile first media
  • Improving video capability and data graphics will be a major theme for news organisations aiming to engage audiences using better screens and faster connections
  • Live pages, live streams and live workflows become a key focus in newsrooms – with newformats emerging for bite-sized news
  • The phablet is coming – a mix between a smartphone and tablet. Mid sized screens andaffordability will hit the sweet spot for many consumers
  • We’ll see a further deepening of the social revolution across all platforms – accompanied by a growing debate about the implications – privacy, control and all the new skills required to manage it (we said this last year but it is worth repeating)
  • In technology expect big advances in gesture control (LeapMotion), indoor location, 3D Printers – and the beginnings of wearable computing
  • More disruption in banking & finance, retailing and higher education as the Internet revolution begins to bite

While the document is really an analysis of the media and journalism sector it doesn’t take a leap of imagination for PR professionals to recognise the impact the predicted transformations will have on communications planning. There may well be  future post in this – distilling the technology-led disruptions re-shaping the media/journalism space and what it means for PR practitioners. For now let’s just note that Nic’s prediction that at least two UK national newspapers will go behind paywalls in 2013 has already come to pass!

History, historiography and Wikipedia

The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography

I’ve been doing some talking and thinking about post-digital recently. A big part of this involves how our
everyday lives have been – and are being – shaped by exposure to online networks and how this
immersion in networks of practice permeates into our real-world thinking.

Usually this is best revealed through our behaviour
and expectations, but colleague and friend Chris Applegate pointed me towards this
awe-inspiring blog post
by James Bridle that seems to neatly invert the notion of post-digital by
re-imagining a very digital product through a very non-digital channel.

Specifically, the James has published in book-form the entire series of edits made to the Wikipedia article on the Iraq War across a five year period from December 2004 to November 2009 – from invasion/liberation to retreat/victory. 

The series totals 12 volumes and incorporates a total of 12,000 changes and almost 7,000 pages. It's truly awesome.

This idea absolutely inspired me. It sets out and makes tangible the idea of history not as a fixed entity of knowledge for knowing, but as a historiography; a
fluid discourse; a body of knowledge in flux.

Ex-Cluetrainee and Berkman Center Fellow,
David Weinberger, in his book Everything is Miscellaneous, terms this process social
the blogger in question, James Bridle, puts it more eloquently when he states that Wikipedia is:

"not only a resource for collating all
human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to
be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we
agree on, and what we cannot.

I cannot agree more.

Call it what you will, the sooner we – and particularly those in positions of authority, influence and power – can recognise and accept that the representation and manifestation of knowledge and
power is a dynamic, fluid, process that yields meaning and suggests outcomes that change over time, the sooner contemporary society will

The digital industry must act now to stop the Digital Economy Bill

The way the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was created by Lord Mandelson and the music industry was  staggering in its audacity and truly disgusting. There was no attempt to veil the fact that the legislation was patently designed to protect the content industries; support executive salaries (and don’t for one second think that this will protect artists’ revenues. It doesn’t and it won’t) and insulate industrial busienss models form the creativity and innovation opened up by the Internet. It was also clear that the Bill would directly impact on citizens and consumers’ personal freedom and rights.

Outstandingly, as this vile piece of legislation has passed through the democratic process (and having been party to some of the to-ing and fro-ing of amendments in the Lords, I use that term loosely) the application of corrupt, money-driven, corporate, executive-serving self-interest has reached even loftier heights of shame.

I won’t dwell on the passion Lord Mandelson has shown in seeking to drive the Bill through the Commons without democratic debate; nor the disgusting collusion shown by all mainstream parties to date in order to gratify big business by preventing a debate; not even the appalling silence from both my own MP, Stewart Jackson, and Lord Clement Jones, who tabled a catastrophic amendment in the Lords at the behest of his content producing clients for at his firm DLA Piper. Without any doubt he is truly a vile, greed-obsessed man more passionate about protecting his client’s interests and his personal wealth than individual, human right.

Instead I want to call on my friends and peers that work in the digital and technology industries and issue a call to action: stand up for democracy; stand up against authoritarian, corporate-driven legislation; stand up for what is right.

The effects of the Digital Economy Bill as it stands will have serious implications for everyone. Us digital media types won’t be able to stop off at a café for a coffee and check our emails because free, open wifi will be shut off. Our children won’t be able to do their homework or learn about the wonders of the wider world because the household has been disconnected without evidence after someone has been suspected of 'illegally' sharing a large file.

But simply, if the Digital Economy Bill is passed we'll be faced with a bleak future where the stupefied consumers of Huxley’s Brave New World are now being shown the Orwell 1984 treatment.

Please. Please. Please. Act NOW before it is too late. Wake up from your stupefaction and do something:

Is this what cutting edge Internet and government research looks like in the UK?

Egov screenshot

Readers of this blog will know that I have a particular interest in edemocracy, politics and the internet. In fact I'd go as far as to say I'm passionate about the ways in which social media and the internet ca be used to empower individuals and government to make our lives and the world around us a better place.

With this in mind you can imagine my excitement to see via Twitter that two towering forces of academia, Oxford University's Internet Institute and London School of Economics Public Policy Group had launched a website, Government on the Web, dedicated to:

"improving knowledge and understanding of e-government and the impact of web-based technologies on government"

"Awesome", I thought. An online repository for research, case studies, practical guides, etc.

Imagine my horror to see the site that has been developed. Take a look at the screenshot above. Yes. That's it. No, I've not searched the Way Back Machine.  That site was designed, built and published *last week*.

I won't list all the failings here – there's too many and it's too mean. But, holy crap, is this representative of the cutting-edge research being done by teams of UK experts in the field? Wow.

Back in 2007 I went to a one-day conference exploring the future of media at Goldsmith's University and blogged that the experience left me feeling that a lot of UK academics don't yet get social media.

Two years on and this site doesn't fill me with much hope that things have changed. The Oxford Internet Institute is twinned with Harvard's Berkman Center? Home to Doc Searls' and his ground-breaking work into VRM. But looking at this site you wouldn't get that impression.

I'll say it again for added emphasis: Wow. Really.


**UPDATED** Ofcom: remind me what it’s for again?

I'm sorry. What's the point of Ofcom again? I'm sure it plays a valuable role regulating something but it seriously doesn't get the internet does it?

I am blown away by the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of today's report (which the BBC seems to be slavishly re-gurgitating without question.

According to Ofcom, the UK is one of the "world's most advanced countries in terms of digital communications". Why might you ask? Is it because we amazing broadband speeds? Is it because we have cloud wifi covering major cities?

No. It is because – and prepare yourselves for this – we, as a nation:

  • spend more time watching TV than other countries
  • send more texts than other countries
  • leads the world in online advertising (WTF??)

This blows me away. It really does. Call me a cynic but the reasons given hardly amount to anything substantial or even coherent (texts,TV, online ads?).

But what if you were a government trying to push through an insanely authoritarian bill that will curtail free, public use of the internet. You might want to convince the public that Britain is a great digital nation, thus giving the impression they can be trusted to make the right decisions.

It's not as if the report is independent. It's by Ofcom, a government body. The same body who will likely gets lots of money and power from enforcing the draconian laws in Peter Mandelson and the music industry's  Digital Economy Bill.

Sorry to harp on, but the report (or at least the BBC's coverage of it) sounds hollow. While it may be purely coincidence, given the nightmare of Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill which will certainly push us down any real global measure of 'digitalness' I can't help wonder if the two are connected.

**UPDATE** The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones tells me via Twitter that it's a just "a bunch of stats" Ofcom release every year. So it's more likely that it's a crappy news angle for a press release rather than anything sinister.

This is an important announcement…

Those that know me may be surprised that I haven't yet blogged about the government's appalling behaviour to take a fat wad of cash from the music industry in return for turning a blind eye to the amazing power the internet is bringing every facet of humankind and instead amending British law so that we can all take a giant leap backwards in terms of digital rights.

This is purely done to ensure that the UK's moronic entertainment industry executives get to keep their fucking enormous salaries until they retire, upon when they can also cash in their even more enormous fucking pensions.

But that's not all: in case the government wasn't sure that this is a totally fucking stupid idea that might cost them votes, they're also criminalising young people (some might say the electorate of the future), potentially breaching individuals' universal human rights and into the bargain Lord Mandelson has also opted to award himself the personal power to amend copyright laws willy-nilly with the barest minimum of parliamentary oversight.

This (and a whole lot more evilness, such as the loss of free public wifi) is wrapped up in a nifty Bill announced in last month's Queen's Speech called the Digital Economy Bill.

If you want the biggest, most hilarious of laughs, take a look at what I predicted and indeed hoped might be in the Bill when the initial consultation phase was announced last year.

Here's what really happened:

  1. Lord Carter appointed to consult on Digital Britain 
  2. Lord Carter speaks with various people and turnsout a not-perfect but very respectable white paper
  3. Lord Carter moves on
  4. Digital Britain progresses
  5. Lord Mandelson meets David Geffen and host of other music industry chiefs
  6. Lord Mandelson reverses pretty much everything that made sense in the original white paper and announces plans to turn himself into the Digital Witchfinder General

Your help is needed…

Here's what you can do now to help:

  1. Join the Open Rights Group (disc: I'm on the board) to help them lobby for sanity to be amended back into the bill and protect your future online rights
  2. Sign the Downing Street petition, signed by the likes of Stephen Fry, Graham Linehan, and loads others
  3. Adopt your MP to make sure they know about the insanity of what the Digital Economy Bill will inflict on the public

We need your help *NOW* – Mandelson is adamant that the Bill gets passed before they lose the chance to fuck us all up by shutting down the internet. Please take on one of the actions aboce and help spread the word by Tweeting, emailing or Facebooking this post.

Thank you.

10 reasons why RSS is still the bedrock of the social web

I must admit I've been thinking occasionally about whether my RSS feeds were still useful to me, what with the advent of Twitter, FriendFeed and other real-time tools/platforms. it seems that this is something Sam Diaz at ZDNet has been thinking too.

In response Dave Winer has posted a great article unpicking Sam's post and in the process has restored my faith in RSS (if I ever lost it). Go read it for yourself here and then subscribe to Dave's RSS feed for more great content.

Two key points to take from Dave's post include:

  • "My newspaper doesn't tell me how many articles I haven't read going
    back to the date of my birth. I bet it would be in the millions. Why
    should I care. This was the worst idea ever in news readers."
    < —– totally agree. This actually encourages me not to read stuff: when I have a large backlog of unread content I simple 'Mark all as read'
  • "If all the RSS on the planet were all of a sudden to stop updating (key
    point) the news would stop flowing. Any news guy or gal who thinks they
    could get by without RSS — think this through a bit more. We all love
    the Internet, but don't shut off your gas and electric because your
    computer and router wouldn't work without electricity. Same with RSS
    and news. RSS is how the news flows, whether you see it or not. If not
    RSS, something exactly like RSS."

Tags: RSS, Dave Winer

Online PR: book review to come…

Thanks to Martha over at publishers, Kogan Page, I’ve just received my review copy of Online PR by David Phillips and Philip Young.

I’m looking forward to having a read as both authors are smart guys: academics with solid practical backgrounds and experience.

I’ll be posting my thoughts here in due course. It’ll probably be done piecemeal as I go along, owing to a hectic work schedule.

Tags: Kogan Page, Online PR, David Phillips, Philip Young

Social Media: Changing Organisations One Crisis at a Time

Youtubes Police
There’s a school of thought that believes that major internal changes only occur through external events – often political or financial – that have a major or cataclysmic impact on the organisation.

When it comes to social media causing cataclysmic changes in the UK we have recently witnessed two significant events which in one case has led to change. However, as far as I have seen, these changes have largely passed unnoticed among professional communicators despite having relevance to public and media institutions.

While they’re not exactly cut and dried case studies I thought I’d use a blog post to take a look at what happened, why, and how the Internet has changed the way the organisations in question operate – or not.

The first example at first sight looks like a fairly standard whistle-blower business story. Last month the Guardian published a story based on leaked documents that shone a light on Barclays’ investment division. The story, the Guardian claimed, was another piece of journalism damning the financial industry at a time when public abhorrence and anger for the wealth being accumulated (or not) by bankers was at its peak.

The Guardian broke the story overnight via its website which included scans of the leaked documents. These meant anyone could delve into Barclays’ gory tax avoidance details themselves. However, by the following morning edition of the Guardian newspaper Barclays’ lawyers had secured an injunction requiring the documents to be removed from the Guardian’s website. Job done, they thought.

However, in the couple of hours that the documents had been online users had saved copies of the documents and distributed them across the web, on sites including the wonderful Wikileaks.

Unfortunately, the injunction meant the Guardian couldn’t disclose or signpost its readers to the documents but that didn’t matter as people were discussing the story and linking to copies of the documents anyway – entirely by-passing the MSM and thus rendering the legal injunction all but worthless. 

This has clear resonances with the Diebold case in the US back in 2004. I won’t go into the specifics (it’s on Wikipedia and has been examined in detail Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks) but suffice to say that a large company, in this case Diebold, discovered it couldn’t use legislation to control or censor unpalatable information once it had been launched into the social web.

The second case is more recent – and more tragic. During the G20 protests the innocent newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson was assaulted by a police officer who had disguised his identity by covering his face with a balaclava and illegally removing his identification number. Furthermore, the officer responsible didn't come forward until the video footage had been played out across the world. As a result of this violence there is a very strong likelihood that the injuries Tomlinson's sustained during the assault led to his death.

This version of events – widely accepted by the public and media as the most accurate – has been established using images, videos and first-hand testimonies from citizen journalists. However, the response by the police forces involved and IPCC was to issue media statements that contradicted this version of events. How can that be?

Writing in Monday’s Media Guardian Nick Davies asks the important question: “Why did it take six days and citizen journalism to shed light on Ian Tomlinson’s death.”

Davies – whose book last year, Flat Earth News, criticised cash and resource strapped newsrooms for being overly-reliant on the PR industry and PROs – goes as far as to suggest that the reason may be that the Met, City of London Police and IPCC were deliberately issuing misinformation.

Far be it for me to comment on that point but it places the role of the Internet at the heart of the media coverage, rather than the periphery.

Aside from Tomlinson’s death, the nearby peaceful Climate Camp was targeted by violent police action which would seem to have coincided with when the MSM cameras were turned off. Without citizen reporters capturing the camp clearance on phones, digital video and still cameras there would be no real record of the events that unfolded.

Ditto the police officer who updated his Facebook status: "Can't wait to bash some long haired hippys up @ the G20." As a result he is being investigated. And who knows what happened (if anything) to this guy who’s Twitter update landed in my inbox a few days after the event.

With all this reputational fallout for the police and sharp drop in public trust it is perhaps no surprise to see the relatively rapid announcement in PR Week that the Met is now “stepping up its online comms" to deal with the Internet as a communications channel.

While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, tactical changes will only be successful if supported by a change in organisational strategy too. With the web making organisations’ actions near-impossible to control or manage, traditional institutions and their approach to communications – and in this case, UK law a well – are being undone by the Internet.

Things are changing, but it seems to be only one crisis at a time.

Tags: Social Media, organisational change, crisis, Barclays, Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, IPCC

Twitter at the peak of the hype cycle

Neville has a good post taking a brief but insightful look at Twitter's current popularity, charting it against Gartner's famous Hype Cycle.

Twitter HC

Neville writes that Twitter is currently perched atop the initial Peak of Inflated Expectations and quotes Gartner's Mark Raskino who argues that if we take micro-blogging as an abstract technology its current mass popularity lies in the fact that it's a tool which helps journalists (and bloggers) do their job and is thus gaining significant media attention.

I would add to this and suggest that the journalist example is one half of Twitter's popularity. Once the media write about Twitter, their audiences sign up and find that as well as being a useful tool for journalists it's also a useful for them. In fact it's a damn useful tool for just about anyone. Thus the inflation continues.

Neville also reinforces this point with a quote from Don Dodge who suggests that the power of Twitter lies not in the technology, but in the people (which is something I've been saying for a while):

"Social networks are all about connecting people and letting them communicate. It is the power of the network…not the technology."

Neville ends his post with the (perhaps leading) question:

"How quickly will it slide down into and then out of the trough of disillusionment?"

I believe the answer to this question is: quicker than we think.

As Twitter gains popularity via the dual drivers of mainstream media coverage and amazing public utility it becomes a ripe target for spammers, shysters, snakeoil salesmen, etc.

Sure this has always been the case with any product, tool or service but key to twitter is the realtime, network effect conditions under which it operates.

If people love Twitter for it's live connection with friends and colleagues then they'll hate it for the speed and ease with which spammers and shysters can invade their lives.

It's already happening: first there were fake, spammy accounts following you automatically and now I and others are complaining of receiving direct messages from spammy, fake accounts without even following them.

And maybe this is the real driver of innovation or the migration to new social media platforms. Friend Feed is growing nicely but maybe it's not going to gain critical mass until Twitter is clogged up with spam – or indeed, mired in the Trough of Disillusionment.

Tags: Twitter, Neville Hobson, Gartner, Hype Cycle, Friend Feed