Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Harp from Russia

Alisa Sadikova is a 9 year old Russian harpist. Listen to how she performs A. Hasselmans - Fileuse at a private performance recorded in Dusseldorf, Germany. Brilliant.Surprised it hasn't gone viral.

Monday, February 25, 2013

NASA - Needs to Liven Up

How do you share science with the public? NASA has done some interesting live events recently. And I would argue its release of photos is brilliant. But its storytelling sounds very old fashioned - like a VOA Science Show of the 1980's. It is a lesson from a faceless reporter. We get quotes from a scientist read to us. And what I missed was the follow-up video explaining there is no connection between this asteroid and whatever fell on Russia a few weeks back. And the scores? 0,5 million watch the NASA video. 31 million watch the unmoderated clip from Russia Today. NASA is missing a trick.

By appointment to the king - Royal Philips

Curious branding discussion. At first I thought they were changing from Philips into Royal Philips. But the official name is already Royal Philips Electronics. Now that Philips has sold off its consumer electronics companies, it's more like Royal Philips Health. So they're planning to shorten the name rather than lengthen it. Surprised they don't use the opportunity to fix the company tag line. Sense and simplicity has never worked. Why not just "simplicity"?

I have also been looking at how companies tell their stories to shareholders and interested parties. I confess I don't understand Philips marketing/PR department when it comes to their annual report. The online version contains several rather uncomfortable videos of CEO Frans van Houten trying to act like a newsreader. He's clearly not a natural presenter. No media outlet will use these statements because they stand out as being so rehearsed (although some might play it if Philips paid them). 

Golden rule: Never look at the camera unless you're doing wild-life documentaries. A fireside chat format would be far more effective and authentic.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) today announced that it will propose to the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders (AGM), which will be held on May 3, 2013,  to amend the articles of association of the company to change the name of the company to Koninklijke Philips N.V. (Royal Philips).

“Philips is a diversified technology company focused on delivering meaningful innovation in healthcare, energy-efficient lighting and consumer health and well-being,” said Philips Chief Executive Officer Frans van Houten. “Our innovative products, systems and services help improve the lives of billions of people. We believe having Royal Philips as our new company name, will position us well in our endeavor to make the world healthier and more sustainable.”

Furthermore, Philips will propose to the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders to re-appoint Ms. Christine Poon, Mr. James Schiro and Mr. Jeroen van der Veer as members of the Supervisory Board. Philips will also propose to amend the Long-Term Incentive Plan for its executives.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Zimbabwe's Bonkers Ban

Elections coming up in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Wonder what role radio will play? 
As far as Harare is concerned, the police there seem to be emulating the Nazi's in the Netherlands back in 1994 when they confiscated all radios, with wired radios being the only equipment allowed. In the case of Zimbabwe the message is confusing. Opposition Voice of the People says the ban is on the possession of shortwave radios. 
Harare, February 20, 2013 - Zimbabwe Republic Police on Tuesday threatened to arrest anyone found distributing or in possession of shortwave radios.
“We have information that some people or political parties are engaging in illegal activities, that is to say they are distributing illegal communication devices to unsuspecting members of the public," said National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba. "Some are taking advantage of the needy communities and in guise of helping them they are also handing them over these communication devices,” she said. 
Voice of America Studio 7 also covered the story. Wonder if the ban will mean the foreign stations will refrain from playing jingles which might be heard by security forces out in the streets. It is so sad. Zimbabwe once the bread basket of Africa. Now the basket case.

Zimbabwe’s Co-Home Affairs Ministers responded Wednesday to a nationwide ban of communication devices by police saying they cannot confiscate radios unless they can prove that the radios are illegal transmitters, not simply receivers. Minister Theresa Makone told VOA  that she, along with co-minister Kembo Mohadi, met with Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, and instructed him to halt confiscations.

The role of radio in conflict areas? Just look at the interview I did with David Smith when he was working for Radio Bar Kulan in Kenya. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Medium - Next generation self-publishing?


A sort of cross between Quora and Twitter. From the guy that bought you blogger. Hope we can curate stuff into intelligent collections. Now that would be nice. Waiting to get started.

Barnetts Future Scenarios - the rise of Asia

A fascinating updated series of talks by the writer of The Pentagon's New Map. The author is Thomas P M Barnett, probably better known these days at the Chief Stategist at Wikistrat. Don't agree with all of his conclusions, but that's not the point. He certainly gets you thinking about big-world scenarios. And we desperately need more of this kind of thing. I'm looking at what these kind of scenarios could mean for a series of media projects in Africa and Latin America. And what if the next Pope is from Latin America? Bearing in mind when these talks were originally recorded (2011), he was remarkable in predicting the instability in Central and North Africa - countries with straight lines.

The flow of People

The flow of Money

The flow of Energy

The flow of Food

The flow of Security

Why the 21st Century will be the most religious yet.

Is Apps World Sustainable?

I hope so. Apps World reminds me of the BBC's Mashed meetings some years ago in London. Clever people in a large room with a clear deadline. The result - some great practical solutions to defined problems. Now I am curious to see whether these ideas get carried forward and build into something for digital storyteller or wither and die out here on the Interwebs. Bravo for Richard Kastelein for starting this initiative. It's really tough out there at the moment.

Jarvis and a joined up BBC?

Jarvis versus BBC News. Jarvis wins - but not in a very elegant way. 

Interesting edition of This Week in Google, although for some reason the metadata doesn't mention it starts with an analysis of a rant that went wrong on BBC News. Jarvis wasn't subtle in his critique of the way the BBC was handling a story about a Facebook "security" breach. But the BBC rolling news teams are pretty clueless when it comes to covering tech news. And either lazy, confused or inexperienced.

BBC have some decent specialist shows like Click! (especially the radio version) operating out of the same building which take a step back from the hype and do a considered analysis. So why don't they use their own community of expertise instead of ringing a grumpy Jeff Jarvis in the middle of the night who is clearly trying to persuade the editorial team in London that there is no story here.

And when it comes to the value of the story, Jarvis is right.

Lessons Learned

  • Looks to me like this story went wrong because someone decided to do the story in the middle of the night UK time and their local expertise was asleep. Was the story big enough to wake someone in the UK? No. So they call Jeff and go live with caustic comments. Nobody's finest hour here. Wonder if anyone cares? Expect the rap jingle on the TWIT network.
  • Oh, and the rest of the show is far more interesting. Google Glasses will fail big time, a review of etc. Well worth an hour of your time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chinese Conundrum

Xinhua news agency reports today that Sina Weibothe Chinese equivalent of Twitterhad attracted over 500 million users by the end of 2012, a year-on-year increase of 74 percentSina Weibo's active daily users have exceeded 46.2 millionthe company said.

The site's revenues totalled 66 million U.Sdollars in 2012, of which 23 percent came from surging income from value-added servicesThe other 77 percent came from advertising, the revenues of which exceeded 50 million U.S. dollars. Some 75 percent of Sina Weibo's active users log in using mobile devices. Sina also issued financial reports for the last quarter and full fiscal year of 2012 on Wednesday, showing that its net revenues hit 529.3 million U.S. dollars with a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.

Is it just me? But 66 million dollars from 500 million users doesn't really sound like a roaring success. On the other hand, their users made all the content, all they have to do is provide the infrastructure. And what do they care about profits?

Flashback to 2004- will history repeat itself?

Excellent article by Neil Taylor from June 2004 published in the South China Morning Post. It explains why Comdex failed, which was the largest IT exhibition in North America at the time. 11 years later it could be exactly the same reasons why large specialist exhibitions like IBC either fail catastrophically or fade rather fast as the economy bites broadcast very hard.
Last week marked one of those historical moments by which you can mark technology's timeline. It was the closure, probably for good, of the annual Comdex Fall technology show in Las Vegas. If Samuel Johnson had been born 300 years later, he might have said that the man who is tired of Las Vegas is tired of losing. And Comdex organiser MediaLive is looking like someone who has just spent 24 hours on a baccarat table. Since 1979, Comdex has been the big ticket event on the technology calendar. Although a fraction of the size of Germany's giant CeBit, Comdex got the kudos, thanks to its handy location close to Silicon Valley and smack in the heart of the city of sin.
Many of the most significant products were unveiled there, from Dos 2.0 to Windows and Lotus 1-2-3. We saw the earliest outings of speech and handwriting recognition, wearable, virtual and even smellable computing there. Best of all (for many) were the parties, the freebies and the chance to hang out on the Strip and talk about gadgets - all on company expense. By the late 90s, more than 200,000 geeks turned up every autumn.

So what went wrong?

According to Robert Priest-Heck, chief executive of MediaLive, the closure is for our own good. 'While we could still run a profitable Comdex this year, it does not benefit the industry to do so without broader support of the leading technology companies,' he said in a statement. But most of us had long since stopped going, anyway. By last year, only 45,000 people turned up to visit the 500 exhibitors (also down by three quarters). By the time it reached its zenith in 2000, Comdex was an uncontrollable, sprawling mess.

Germany's CeBit has its own enormous exhibition site, where each technology has its own hall, all within easy walking distance. At Comdex, you had to travel between several hotels to see everything. Travel meant endless queues for buses or costly taxis, the hotels were fully booked and overpriced, and the food was best forgotten. With the crowds came the freeloaders. Comdex became known for the volume of free junk available to anyone willing to queue. Gradually, many of the biggest brands in the industry decided the show was not worth the time, competition and high costs. One by one, IBM, Dell, Apple, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and many other stalwarts dropped out, although some (such as HP) held events in nearby hotels to capture the passing trade.

Another Comdex killer was the treatment of Asian firms. For years, the Silicon Valley's technology royalty dominated the main halls at the Las Vegas Convention Centre. Asian firms were relegated to the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, a bus ride away from the main events. Some were happy to be spared the noise and freeloaders, but most felt they were getting a poor deal. In 2000, I met a very frustrated Mike Rowse, head of InvestHK at the Hong Kong Pavilion. Mr Rowse was as forthright as ever when he explained why they would not be back the next year. The event, in his opinion, was 'bullshit'.

He was right.

If ever Comdex should have been cancelled, it was in 2001. Coming two months after the terror attacks of September 11, exhibitor and attendee numbers plummeted. There were so few exhibitors left, the Sands was abandoned - along with a number of Asian firms that had hired sales rooms in the neighbouring Venetian. Only seven firms took stands in the Hong Kong pavilion. Former organisers Key3Media admitted defeat and opened the doors to the Vegas public. Now the lines of geeks taking a week off work to boost their T-shirt collections were boosted by bored tourists and unemployed Vegas youths, all lining up for their free food, software, toys, puzzles, inflatable doodads, pens, key rings, hats and even trousers.

Meanwhile, visitors were searched whenever they entered a hall, and some overseas exhibitors found their equipment irretrievably stuck in US customs. To make matters worse, Key3Media tried to turn Comdex into a 7-11 of technology shows, with one on every corner, from Chicago to Atlanta to Sydney to Shanghai. Today, the only shows left are in Brazil, South Korea, Scandinavia, Saudi Arabia and Greece, with a promise, unlikely to be fulfilled, of a return to Las Vegas next year.
But the technology world has changed and Silicon Valley is no longer its sole focus. While CeBit still continues, most companies now prefer to focus on their specific markets. So in place of Comdex, we now have CES for consumer electronics, Computex for the PC industry, E3 for gamers, Networld for networkers, CTIA for wireless and the ITU and 3GSM shows for telecoms.

So who needs Comdex?

To people who say this could never happen, I simply refer them to the show that started the RAI exhibition centre in the first place, the RAI Autoshow. It was decided in November last year that the annual auto show in April 2013 will not go ahead. Car sales in January 2013 dropped by 30 percent compared to last year. So clearly they made the right decision.

Brooker is Brilliant

Love Charlie Brooker's caustic review of UK/US media. Its funny. But also sad to see how stupid TV has become. Best audio programme with analysis of both US and UK media stories has to be the

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ISE-Europe replaces the need for IBC

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ISE2013, a set on Flickr.

Walking around the Integrated Systems Europe exhibition in Amsterdam a few weeks back, I'm becoming even more convinced that this event will replace the need for a separate visit to the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC).  At least for me as a media strategist.

If you ignore all the legacy technologies that are at IBC (like transmitters), then ISE is now bigger - and infinitely more interesting on all fronts - both in audio and video. The organisers, Integrated Systems Events, claimed a record for the 2013 event at the Amsterdam RAI - 44,151 registrations, an 8% increase on 2012 figures. With just under 900 exhibitors, the halls are full. But the layout is far more relaxed than IBC. I saw many guided tours through the exhibition floors, with teachers, museum curators, conference organisers, event planners all curious as to what is cooking. They went to get inspired. They were certainly not disappointed this year. And the ISE conference turns out to be a one-day briefing before the exhibition starts. That's it. People came to see stuff not sit in a conference to be lectured at, TEDx style. IBC, on the other hand, still believes it should run a 5 day conference alongside the exhibition. Except the exhibition organisers refuse to publicise the IBC Conference inside the halls because they don't want punters leaving the exhibition floor.

Despite its confusing name, ISE is in fact a giant gathering of digital storytellers. And as every company becomes a media company, I believe that broadcast is rapidly becoming a vertical in a much larger media universe, alongside retail, outdoor events, health, conferences, airport and traffic control centres (think Schiphol) and the multiroom AV systems built into the houses of the rich and famous. If it uses audio and video, then you'll find it here. Even discovered the French national archives INA at the back of Hall 7. And the people who build and design newsrooms are here too, though they are here in the guise of building "situation rooms" into large corporations.

But 3D isn't going to catch on like this. Very difficult to focus on the screen - don't move either

Non-broadcasters totally eclipse broadcasters

I remember broadcasters at IBC2012 remarking that 4K screens would take years to get into the home. That may be true. But Samsung shows that this technology will pop up in health and retail well before that. And I would bet that those 4K screens have 25 times the emotional impact of ordinary LED screens. Just what you need if you're pushing a product in a large shopping mall in the Middle East.

The biggest buzz in this industry is clearly around visual storytelling. I found specialist companies who know how to project sound into very focussed spots and brilliant technology that connects multiple screens. I see two new types of professions rising out of all this technology.

1. Story Composer. This is someone who can compose a narrative across several screens...a bit like the opening event we saw at the Olympics in London but then on a smaller scale. It's a combination of live events (could be an orchestra or dancers) that trigger other things on screens. That includes being able to push messages and videos to mobile screens in the pockets of people in the audience. At the moment, I can see plenty of distribution possibilities. The software for the composer is still rather crude. It still reminds me of a playout list that you find in radio studios. Being able to trigger events simultaneously is impossible. I am looking for multi-track possibilities.

2. Event Conductor. Just as pianists perform the works of composers, so I see the rise of the events producer. People who can direct complex multi-screen events based on a cross-media script. This profession already exists in the world of live broadcasting. It's just going to progress to other events where broadcast is still important - just not leading. And because young people have learned to multi-task at a young age, being able to do this job comes natural to the under 30's.

Big opportunities for the software industry to work out more intelligent ways of driving this equipment. Just as the broadcast industry has woken up rather late to the world of IT replacing dedicated pieces of hardware, this is also starting to happen in the non-broadcast AV industry too. And prices are plummeting. The prices for speakers, amplifiers and screens is a fraction of what it used to be. And fibre optics are solving all the complicated wiring issues.

If you're still in broadcasting, then now is the time to rethink how you will tell stories in a multiscreen world. And I don't just mean a second screen Ipad alongside the telly. In the global battle for attention, broadcasters need to realise that storytelling is changing in both form and public expectation. And the actors in this space will be those companies who understand how to tell stories with the new tools. My hunch is that it will only be a handful of the traditional broadcasters. Some publishers get it - perhaps because their paper audiences are dwindling much faster than broadcast audiences.

Oh, and one more thing. ISE Europe is three days. Memories of the 5 day nightmares at IBC are quickly fading. For me, at least, I've made my decision.

skype - but then with a reliable connection

Cisco is also taking Webinars and narrowcasting more seriously

Amazing how many situation rooms there are in the world.

Not sure I understand

Digital Whiteboards are getting to be dirt cheap - and very smart

Even the demos need a bit of maintenance

Press releases on a CD?  Surely some mistake?

The buzz is definitely in video storytelling. Audio is taken for granted

Amsterdam RAI - this time in the ISE-Europe mode

Demonstrating Multi-Touch screens from Finland.

Transparent screens - products behind the TV screen - seen in vending machines in Japan and Korea

Screens reacting to movement are still rather crude. Doesn't really know what to do once you've been recognised.

Museums like you have never seen before

3D nitwits. The effect is wearing off.

4K will be big in great places

BenQ is into design apparently.

Seats for your private theatre

Ipad and Ipad mini replace bespoke remote controls.

Sony had the equipment but rather poor software for the classroom. 

 See what I mean? IBC was never like this.