Monday, December 31, 2007

Have a Great 2008 - Inspiration for All

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing (to paraphrase BBC World Service radio's ident), have a great, peaceful and prosperous 2008! Lots happening in the next 12 months, Olympics, US elections, LeWeb08, DLD, LIFT, APMMediaLab, 3GSM. Fraid I won't have much influence on the first two - but I will have a lot of fun being involved with the others. Saw that someone has put a lampshade on one of the street lights in Gouda, the famous cheeze town in the Netherlands. May the light guide you to wise decisions. Keep smiling and safe travels.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Linked In

I've decided to consolidate my business social networks, moving away from Xing and just using LinkedIn. I still don't think any of them are much more than an electronic Rolodex and don't understand that in my kind of business I have different levels of business relationships. LinkedIn doesn't allow for this, nor can you recommend someone unless you have worked with them. There are people I have seen perform on stage, like Hans Rosling, who I find inspiring. No way to add that to a person's profile. I hope this networking software will become more intelligent in 2008, bearing in mind the fact that one mistake with this stuff leads to a very high embarassment factor.

I get the impression more people are working these two "bridge" days than last year, simply to catch up before 2008 hits us next Tuesday. I am also amazed how people misunderstand the use of the Office Outlook autoreply. Data that they would never give out on a business card (like home numbers or mobile phone numbers) are quite happily put into Office with an invitation to call. If I am away from the office, those who need to know, know how to reach me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This ain't a scene it's an arms race

Reminds me of the old Maxell cassette tape ads in the 1980's. Misheard lyrics are getting easier to parody, thanks to better technology - and more incomprehensible lyrics from the bands.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

White Christmas Heath

White Christmas Heath
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Dusted with frost, this is the heath near my home in the Netherlands. Looks magical and mysterious at this time of year. Near the restaurant called the Tafelberg.

Centre for Media and Health, Gouda

This Netherlands centre for training and research into ways to use the media for health messages has been around for a while. But on 14th December they opened their new centre inside a building that used to house a school gym.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Queen E on Youtube

I regard all the royal families in the world as a business, a family business if you will. In terms of media usage, the UK Royal family seems to be ahead of the Dutch. They have also invented some traditions which boost the local economy -like changing of the guard. Nothing like that in the Netherlands.

Fantastic Frost

Fantastic Frost outside the window today. Will escape the warmth to take pictures outside. Have not seen it as beautiful as this for a long time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Max and the Bridge

Another Youtube video from Max "the hack" who shows us how he can hack into of the famous Dutch drawbridges even when there are no boats around. Real or not, you be the judge. I think this is part of a viral campaign to make IT look like a cool career. There are not enough IT students coming out of the system in the Netherlands.

This is the BBC in Warsaw, Moscow, etc, bla bla

If you listen to BBC World Service at the top of the hour you'll hear various variations of the idea "This is the BBC in (insert major capital city here). I wonder where this rebranding came from. One clue may be a spoof closedown of the old BBC Radio 5 (before it became BBC Radio 5 Live) on March 27th 1994. Listen to this Real Audio extract about 13 seconds in....

Fun with the Netherlands Freeway

Now if this hack really did happen this would be Page 1 headlines. It has well over a million views on the web, but it is clever production not clever programming.

BBC Website 2.0 Beta

BBC Beta
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Interesting to see that the new BBC home page beta site has something very familiar to it - the old BBC TV clock from the 1970's. See this website for all the old logos....there's a documentary to be made there somewhere. If you want to see the time right now in the BBC Clock mode just click here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

NOS News Exhausted

New leaders can be exasperating when your autocue system freezes up. Problem is that the system then keeps repeating the mistake through the night. This blunder happened earlier in the year. Found it while looking for something else.

Radio for the Birds

Somewhere in China a design committee has been trying to dream up the best present for Xmas...and came up with this for a mere 30 bucks. Brilliant...not!


Gather all the birds in the backyard for a tree-side chat with this nostalgic wooden birdhouse reminiscent of a 1930s radio. With its painted details, wooden knobs and a carved "speaker," this whimsical birdhouse captures the charm of an era gone by.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fry on Philips

I don’t know who is in charge of recruitment or marketing at Philips, but they need a rapid injection of talent, imagination, flair and understanding, or in this sector at least they’ll rapidly go under.

Didn't know that Stephen Fry, the British actor, author and famous host of the Qi TV show is a total gadget freek. That might explain why his voice is inside a mantel-piece clock I have in the office. He writes such stupendous stuff too, in a style that helps rather than confuses. He also doesn't like the Streamium line of badly designed wifi devices that supposedly interact. Philips is still having huge problems interacting with its audience of consumers. They put the Social media experimental blog in the marketing department - so any efforts to contact the designers is doomed. You're conversing with an advertising department. Now there are lower forms of life (amoeba, estate agents and lawyers) but ad agencies are pretty near the bottom rung of human life forms. Why waste time trying to communicate with them?

Max and RTL Edition NL

Following publicity in the RTL show Edition NL (which looks at lifestyle stories in the Netherlands), Max decides to "break in" to the autocue at RTL. This is every IT network managers' nightmare in real broadcasting stations. The ideas for other hacks are brilliant. Check them out on, a site designed to stimulate young people to enter the software business - there is a chronic shortage in this part of the world. That's the clue to this clever viral marketing campaign. You don't need to understand Dutch to share the fun.

Max Cracks Dutch Railways

Like many people here, I have been following with interest a series of great films made by Max Cornelisse. He is an IT student who has built an audience of millions of Youtube viewers in the Netherlands. He claims to have hacked computers in several strategic places... breaking in to Dutch railways computer and changing the announcements at the train station. In this clip he changes the platform number and then asks a passenger where he is going today. He is flying to Alicante. A few seconds later the train announcement board says the next train is for Alicante. Since the flip-over destination boards are not electronic, there is no way for him to get Alicante on the board in the real world. But on Youtube, any joke is possible. I wonder if any foreign TV networks will fall for the trick?

Global Warming in Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord in Paris is like going back 50 years. Old fashioned flip information boards chatter in the cold like false teeth. They only announce the platform for the Thalys train at the last minute, leaving some passengers to scramble with luggage to the front of a 20 coach train. Those red poles are indeed trying to warm the freezing. Badly organised and the staff don't care.

Worldspace - living up to its name

Sorry folks, I cannot believe that Worldspace is going to last much longer. They are using a technology which is now out of date and now focussing on Italy, a country already saturated with radio.

Their 3rd quarter results released on November 8th said

The Company ended the quarter with 177,644 subscribers worldwide, a loss of 12,689 from the close of the prior quarter, reflecting loss of subscribers in India and the planned cessation of marketing efforts in Europe ahead of the company's efforts to test and subsequently commence mobile service in Europe. In India, the Company lost 8,713 net subscribers during the third quarter of 2007, reflecting reduced marketing in that region, ending the period with 164,902 subscribers in India, 19% higher than at the end of the third quarter of 2006.

After bumping along at around 4 dollars, last Friday's price was US$1.98. Could it be that analysts are finally joining me in the ranks of the unconvinced that this satellite project will ever turn the corner?

Stock in the last 3 months (Reuters website). tick, tick... I wonder how they will decomission these satellites? Just let them burn up I suppose. In the meantime they are burning about 7 million dollars a month on providing unlabelled audio from the sky. Yes it has a channel ID, but no information on the individual programmes.

What is even more revealing is the picture taken over the last 5 years. This is an out-of-business model I am afraid. And we've been saying so all along - the problem with Worldspace is that it is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Radio Notre Dame studio

Radio Notre Dame studio
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Radio Notre Dame, an FM radio station in Paris - has a studio inside the famous cathedral - operates when it has enough money. I am sure they could do it for less than 7000 Euros a day though.

Radio Notre Dame

Radio Notre Dame
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Radio Notre Dame, an FM radio station in Paris - with a studio inside the famous cathedral - is holding a fundraiser. It says the station costs 7000 Euro a day to keep it on the air. Now that IS expensive. The tiny studio inside the cathedral for recording discussions.

BBC Memoryshare

I see the BBC has relaunched its BBC World Service website and is inviting comments for listeners. While hosting a communications show on Radio Netherlands, Media Network, I remember that shortly after the Soviet Coup in August 1991 the BBC claimed that while he was under house arrest, Gorbachev listened to the BBC Russian Service. Later that was watered down to a claim that he heard the news of the coup via the BBC Russian service, implying that someone on his staff was listening to the radio rather than Gorbachev himself. While trawling "the Internets" I bumped into this comment in Usenet which I found intriguing. It doesn't solve the mystery...just adds to it.

Date: Sun, 28 Feb 1999
Subject: Gorbachev and Foreign Radio
From: Serguei Sossedkine

In 1986/89 my father worked as a communication specialist at Gorbachev's
dacha in Pharos where eventually the Soviet president had his short-lived
house arest. According to stories I heard from my dad before the coup,
many of those employed in Pharos' maintenance regularly tuned in to
Russian broadcasts from BBC even when BBC was still jammed. Many workers
there had short-wave radios. From my own experience I know that BBC had
a very strong reception in Crimea, thanks to its powerful relay station
in Cyprus.

According to Western statistics, in the 80s BBC was the most popular
foreign station in Russia. VoA usually took the second place while DW
and RL shared the third. Out of four, RL was widely mistrusted due to
its obvious propagandist purposes.

I don't think that Gorbachev lied when he said that he was listenting to
BBC. Of course, he might have listened to other international stations
as well. If George Marquart wants a tape of that memorable event he
should get in touch with Russian Service of BBC which broadcasted
Gorbachev's BBC-friendly reply many times in its Russian programs.
Although I'm sure Gorbachev Foundation already has it.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dutch Rail Dinglish

Dutch Rail Dinglish
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
I think Dutch railways is using Babelfish to translate signage these days. We're told not to speak in a "loudly voice" in trains. Now the new timetable has very peculiar phrases. What happened to the Netherlands' great command of English?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

FNAC Guitar Hero

FNAC Guitar Hero
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Seemed to be this years featured present for the Wii, Playstation 2 and the Xbox.

Analogue Radio Corner in FNAC

FNAC kills analogue shortwave

FNAC store
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Went into one of the largest FNAC stores in Paris and mooched around the computer and radio sections. This is a big store at Les Halles. I see that all the radio displays have been vastly shrunk in size to make way for MP3 player accessories, mainly speaker systems for i-pods. So I asked about a shortwave radio. We don't stock them any more was the reply. "You can get the world television and radio thru the Internet". The guy should have added "stupid" at the end of the sentence. But his body language said it all. That is significant because many of the African intellectuals used to buy their receivers here to take back home. Not any more.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dutch Railways reisplanner

ns reisplanner
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Good start to any trip when the on-line trip planner crashes...I am amazed at how backward the train system is here, compared to the airlines. You can't book on line less than 5 days in advance, because they have to send the ticket by post. Now there is supposed to be a way to print out tickets on line but it doesn't work for the Thalys. You end up calling a human!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Off to Paris

off to Paris
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Heading for the French capital - and le web 3 and may be a train strike on Wednesday. Who knows...but in Paris, who cares. Going to be at le web with another 1500 of us?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hilversum Unplugged

Hilversum Unplugged
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Hot wafels while you wait to try and find a parking space in Showbiz city. As you can gather I'm neither a fan, nor a resident of this fine city.

Backside of Hilversum

Backside of Hilversum
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
This is the back side of Gooiland Hotel, built in a former theatre. See what I mean? Gezellig it is not.

Hilversum Unplugged

Hilversum unplugged
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Hilversum media park is trying to promote itself as the third major media hub, after London and Paris. Yes, folks, it is really true. Problem is that while the media park has all the latest facilities, downtown Hilversum is not an inspiring place for anyone with a creative flair. It looks like it has been built a bit like a TV set - if they have to leave quickly it won't take long to dismantle.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Funx in Den Haag

Funx in Den Haag
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Interesting to see the line-up of stuff that radio station FunX uses for remote broadcasts, in this case from a room in the Hague city hall to commemorate World Aids Day 2007.

Oleanworld Foundation Den Haag

No, not a new promotion team for the film Buzz. Its actually a very worthwhile action by the Oleanworld Foundation based in the Hague. They held a radio marathon and fine art exhibition in the Atrium, home of the city hall in the Hague on November 30th and December 1st.

Oleanworld Foundation Den Haag

Mayor Deetman and
Ciska de Hartogh, who heads the Oleanworld Foundation being interviewed by Funx Youth radio network on World Aids Day. Must be one of Deetman's last interviews - he leaves at the end of the year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

About Brightcove Internet TV Service

About Brightcove Internet TV Service Good overview, even if it is a bit pro Brightcove.

As we come to the end of 2007, it’s time to reflect on the forces that shaped the Internet TV industry during the last year and the trends that will define it in 2008.

Internet video surged into the mainstream in 2006 with the explosive growth of consumer video sharing sites. The leader in the category, YouTube, became a household name, and everyone watched in awe as they were swallowed by Google for $1.65 billion.

But 2007 showed us that video isn’t just for aggregators—it’s fundamental to the Web. The last 12 months saw an explosion in video publishing across a wide array of websites. Video is becoming so pervasive that if you have a web property without video something is wrong with it.

The deep investment in online video publishing and distribution by media companies in 2007 brought a new category of online services into the limelight: Internet TV Platforms.

Internet TV Platforms, like Brightcove, give media owners the ability to control how video is published on their own sites and syndicated across the Internet. Rather than existing at a single destination, Internet TV Platforms underlie thousands of properties and brands creating economies of scale in technology, delivery and distribution.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Classical Youtube

The Classical music world is filled with the most horrendous copyright problems. And egos - you don't want to know. I guess that a huge number of recordings sitting in broadcasters' vaults are unusable - not because the tape has expired, but that the recording was made on the basis of a single broadcast and an "expiry" date for repeats. So it is interesting to see videos of quite a few classical music performances appearing on Youtube. The audio is far from perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. Digital recordings in the last 10 years have a problem - they don't deteriorate. So record companies are loathed to re-record works just for the sake of a slightly different interpretation. And unless public archives, paid for by the taxpayer, have the rights to use what they keep, they might as well throw the recording away. How about national erasure day to free up shelf space for artists who are proud and pleased that past performances will be used again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Netflix Million Dollar Prize

I see that the Netflix prize which seeks to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions is doing well. Improve it enough and you win one (or more) Prizes. Winning the Netflix Prize improves their "ability to connect people to the movies they love" There are currently 28914 contestants on 23593 teams from 165 different countries. They have received 19774 valid submissions from 2710 different teams; 67 submissions in the last 24 hours. So you are not alone.

Roll on February 2008

I see TV B Gone is going for the biggie. Super High Power infrared fun starts in February.


A Tengu is a character from Japanese folklore that plays tricks on people and generally gets up to mischief. The name has now ben chosen by the UK designer Crispin Jones, who explains, "The early prototypes of Tengu featured some slightly different behaviour which was more aligned with the kind of tricks that Tengus get up to. Later we changed the behaviour of the character, but we really liked the name so it stuck! We plan to introduce some of the more mischevious behaviours into future Tengu characters" So what is Tengu?

It is a USB-powered character that lights up and lip-syncs to music, or your voice, or whatever noise happens to be around at the time. Tengu has different facial expressions that you can match to different music. When there's no sound he'll simply fall asleep, as soon as he detects some noise he'll wake up again.

Can you live without Tengu? Of course.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Great News

Consistently the best calendars since Radio Peking sent them out in the 1980's. These are a lot funnier as well. Even has a customer dissatisfaction service. And now a blog.

Google Image Labeler

Google Image Labeler
Clever way Google is now pairing volunteers on line to get them to tag photos. Its a game where you can win points...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dualog - The Maritime Communications Experts - Future Ready?

Dualog - The Maritime Communications Experts - Future Ready?

4th generation maritime communications. Ships and trucks have always been a challenge for broadcasters. Wonder what technology is going to win for them.

Brilliant AD - Part 2

Brilliant AD - Part 2
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
The other side of the Ad. Things make sense with the bigger picture

Brilliant AD in Buenos Aires

so what it happening? Someone going to jump? Why are the cars parked on one side, not on the other?

Precious Things - British Museum

Amazing to think that many of these pots are more than 2000 years old. I wonder how long my ipod will last?

Hyde Park Satellite Dish

Hyde Park Satellite Dish
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Is that a shield he has in his hand, or the uplink dish for Al Jazeera English over the road?

LCD Advertising in the Tube

I see some of the tube stations in London (like Bank) are putting LCD screens for some rather spectacular advertising effects. Reminds me of a football stadium. Wonder if it will ever do news headlines like in Prague's underground.

Italian Ice Cream at Harrods

I like the mint ice cream. Vanilla and Strawberry rather unspectacular for the price - £7.50 pounds please. Once in a lifetime Morelli’s Gelato counter in the food hall in Harrods which, it would seem, has a head waiter and, is now offering a bespoke service. Phone in your order 24 hours in advance and they will custom-make whatever flavour you like, with a minimum order of 1 litre. The service costs £12.45 plus cost of ingredients. Ice Cream in Buenos Aires (chains like Freddo) is much better in my experience.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Crash at Schiphol

Posted by Picasa
Always wonder why they do maintenance on live screens like this. Makes you hope they have back-ups on the planes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cleansing Hotline

Posted by Picasa

What on earth is the cleansing hotline? May be conversations from it would make a great radio programme.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Al Jazeera English

Posted by Picasa

Paid a short visit to Al Jazeera English today on the way back to Heathrow. The main studio is in Qatar. The London bureau is in the basement (they call it Lower Ground Floor) of a large Arab bank in Knightsbridge. There is a great "little park" across the road (Hyde Park) and they must be the closest broadcaster in London to "Speakers' Corner". But not sure if I'd be happy working somewhere with no natural daylight -ever. Making some good shows out of that bank basement though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AIB Awards 2007

Enjoyed being part of the AIB Annual Awards Dinner in the city of London tonight, a celebration of the best programming to be found on the international radio and TV scene. Being one of the judges, it was great to see genuine surprise on the faces of some of the world's best broadcasters.
Posted by Picasa

Paul - Not at your service

Posted by Picasa

Paul is a chain of French sandwich shops of the grab and go variety. The one at the Tower of London is an example of one that provides a great service. The one below is at Schiphol airport in the D-gate wing and I now use it in talks as an example of the worst run cafe in the world. Their sandwiches are good. Their service is the slowest in the world in the one place where people usually have little time to spare. It takes an average of 5 minutes to buy a sandwich because the people making the coffee are also trying to do the checkout. Customers can't grab a sandwich - no you have to ask someone to make it for you. In short, Schiphol should give the franchise to someone else.