Saturday, March 31, 2007

BBQ on the Beach near Doha, Qatar

Jeep Convoy in the Sands

Jeep Convoy in the Sands
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon! In a jeep convoy just south of Doha in Qatar. Have to shut the windows to keep the sand out. The driver in a policeman who does this sand-dune driving as a spare time hobby (besides being a policeman in Qatar doesn't pay that much).

Al Jazeera Beach Party

Al Jazeera Beach Party
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
It is warm in the Netherlands. But it is not 32 degrees like it is at this beach party organised just before the Al Jazeera News Forum I plan to attend tomorrow. Sand everywhere. No birds though...just the sound of the sea. About 40 minutes south of Doha.

Sheraton Hotel, Doha

Sheraton Hotel, Doha
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Speaking at a conference to be held here in Doha. But that starts tomorrow. For now, it is time to prepare for a desert safari. Already 24 degrees out there.

Sheraton Hotel, Doha

Sheraton Hotel, Doha
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Must be a fight to keep the garden green in the summer (45 degrees plus)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Doha by the Water

Doha by the Water
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Travelling from Amsterdam to Doha today. Logistcs challenge as I have to speak in Hilversum before I catch a plane at 1315.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Brewery Waterfront

Brewery Waterfront
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Does indeed have a Germanic feel to it.

TV Brewery in Stockholm

TV Brewery in Stockholm
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
TV1000 and other commercial TV channels operate out of a former brewery in Stockholm on the banks of the river.

Commercial TV in Stockholm

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
It must be every journalist's dream - to have your company move into a brewery. That's exactly what a number of commercial channels did in Stockholm. The high ceilings in the old "Munich brewery" are ideal for the studio lights and easy to air-condition.

Old Stockholm Centre from the South

In Stockholm, Sweden for a couple of conferences. Cloudless day and worringly warm. This is looking towards the historic city centre from the South.

Teracom Digital Radio Day

Teracom Digital Radio Day
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
In Stockholm for a digital radio day. I am surprised by the poster. I wonder if those girls ever listen to the radio like that....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Teddy Bear at the Rival Hotel

Not often you arrive in a hotel room to find a teddy bear waiting...

Rival Hotel

Rival Hotel
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
The Rival is a boutique hotel with it's own cinema located in the heart of Stockholm, Södermalm. The hotel is shaped by the vision of its owner — Benny Andersson — who wanted to recapture the glamour of the hotel from when it original opened as the Aston hotel in the 1930s. In addition to the Rival Cinema there are bars, a bistro, a cafe and a bakery..

View from the Rival Hotel room

Low sun - but still warm outside the window


Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Unlikely as long as Swedish Radio and TV are separate companies and use completely different archives. It is going to be a challenge for the public broadcast sector to adapt.

Swedish Radio

Swedish Radio
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Home of Swedish Radio - and Radio Sweden, the external service.

Swedish Television

Swedish Television
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Oh, and there is Swedish Tv next door

Sunday, March 25, 2007

XBOX runs 360 degrees around Sony PS3 Launch

I wish we'd had the same sort of fun and games in Holland that Microsoft seemed to have organised in London and Paris. Marketingfacts and the British Gaming Blog report that Sony hired a boat to dish out the first examples of the PS3. Microsoft hired another boat with the text "XBOX 360 loves you" on the side.

Actions in London by Microsoft included setting up a website which pokes fun at the fact that the PS3 machines are well over 6 months late. Perhaps a lesson for Sony's PR marketing team which is traditionally arrogant about its own products and dismissive of the competition. I remember last year getting a Dutch press release as a Word document. It had been edited from an English original, but the tracking changes had been left in - including some fascinating comments from various PR types along the way. Never ever send a Word document - always a PDF!

TV B Gone Generation 3

I see that the guys behind the TVBGONE device that switched off TV's have come up with a new, more powerful version 3 of their North American fun accessory. Not quite sure how it now works through glass or why there isn't a European version out yet. But that's all it has all the off-codes for TV's in one device.

Generation 3 does everything Generation 2 does, plus the following:

* Additional OFF codes for new manufacturers of huge-screen plasma TVs!
* Turn off TVs even faster!
* New button makes it more difficult to accidentally turn on.
* Extended battery life!
* Cool translucent case!
* Dimmer visible light while it's working.

They want around 14 Euro per piece and rumours say they've sold more than 100,000 of them. Life is possible without one, but it's not as much fun.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sony Blu Ray Bond Saga

Finally logged on to the Playstation 3 website!

They have obviously had problems because the home page has short cuts to specific parts of the site which weren't there a few days ago. It turns out that the first 450,000 people to register their Playstation 3 (and they want to know an amazing amount for your profile) will get the Blu-Ray DVD of the latest James Bond Movie. The bad news is that it will take up to 45 days for it be delivered (that means the Middle of May) whereas the standard DVD version is in every store in Holland (like supermarkets) since March 23rd. I saw one poster saying Casino Royale was available in three versions, standard, deluxe and Blu-Ray, but obviously, it would seem, at the same time. There are some on-line sites claiming they have stock of the Blu Ray version of the DVD, and can deliver within 24 hrs.

This all begs the question. If Sony knew they couldn't deliver so many Bond Blu-Ray discs on time, then they should have chosen another Blu Ray title that did seem to available - and included it in the box with the new Playstation 3. Still sounds to me like Sony's Video and Playstation departments aren't as "converged" as they want their customers to be.

Boycotting International ShutDown Day

I'm with the guys from Engadget. Don't see the point of International Shut Down day. Now if they had a scheme to ensure offices switched their lights off at the weekends, or switched their computer off instead of on standby, now that's something I'd support. I've got all kinds of technology here to help save energy (LED bulbs that use 1 watt instead of 40 for the same light output). But I gotta make those deadlines...

Viral Ads

Marketing Facts website in Holland reminds us that Google Video still has cool stuff. Like the compilation of the 45 minutes of really funny commercials. The website has all the separate commercials to send to friends. At last, a bunch of advertisers who get it.

Sony Registration still down

Can't get my free James Bond film. Sony Playstation site in Holland is still unavailable. What a mess!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sony Playstation 3 - The Huge Missed Opportunity

Today I did a survey with my son of the electronics/games/hifi shops in the Amsterdam region on the big day when Sony Playstation 3 was finally launched in Europe. It sounds to me like its been one logistics mess from start to finish.

My example was ordered through FreeRecord Shop online, which promised to deliver the hardware, plus one free game and a DVD of Casino Royale to my door today. Except that the deal didn't explain that to qualify for the free game, you had to order a game first, then they would add Black Hawk Down free.

Around 1215 a clearly annoyed delivery guy at the door. Here's your Playstation 3. "You must be busy today, I said". "Its a bloody nightmare" came the reply "total chaos due to bad planning". Opened the box and unpacked. 4 minutes to do that. 10 minutes to set it up. Then the surprise. No software, no content, no nothing on the Playstation 3....every folder is virgin territory. What a missed marketing opportunity. No pre-loaded trailers, no demo games, no samples of photos to show off (and test) your HD connection. And no promised game.

So we call to Free Record Shop On-Line. No, the deal was you had to order a game, then we'd match it with a free one. So you were delivering empty Playstation 3's to people who didn't realize there wasn't even a trial software in the box? Yes.

Where's Casino Royale? Oh, you have to go to the Sony site and put in the serial number of the Playstation 3 and then they will send you the DVD in the post. Is it a HD quality DVD? No. Can I show my order and pick up the DVD from my local Free Record Shop then - they are on sale everywhere today? No, on-line and the retail outlets are separate companies. OK. No James Bond tonight.

I have a HD screen. I'm eager to compare the quality with off-air HD from the BBC, et al. So I need a HD cable don't I? Is there one in the box? No. I have a HDMI-HDMI cable from the satellite tuner, so we use that and plug it in. Looks great, but we have no content, not even a test video.

So begins an expedition along the stores in the Amsterdam area to see what has actually been delivered to stores on D-Day for the Playstation 3. Remember, March 23rd is also the birth of Blu-Ray technology for many - this unit is more than a games console, it is a complete media centre to rival the Windows Media Center as well as the X-BOX.

At this point in the diary, it is time to expose the ludicrous scam that's going on with HDMI connector cables. HDMI is the high definition replacement of the old SCART cable. It is one multi-function cable that you connect between device (like a HD camera or a PlayStation 3) and the HD screen. Its all in one, video and audio go through the same, tiny cable. These cables cost more than some DVD players....the cheapest is 60 Euro, the most expensive is 150 Euros. We're told in the shop there is a quality difference.

Friends, don't buy a HDMI cable, buy a component cable with standard RCA plugs on the end. The component cable give spectacular results because the cable is thicker to start with, the signals are not squeezed together through a thin metal connector. Sony Playstation has a special (of course) plug on the back of it. So is there a Playstation 3 to component cable for sale, as advertised? has seen them on launch day. I'm told in MediaMarkt Almere that they have "no idea when they will turn up".

None of the Free Record Shop or Bart Smit retailers have any Blu Ray Discs. Media Markt does though, at around 20 Euro a time. A small rack has a limited range of rather old titles. There is nothing from 2007. I buy two to test it out the system. In passing I notice that there are Toshiba HD-DVD titles IN THE SAME RACK priced at 33 Euros each. HD-DVD is the rival HD format which is TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE with Blu-Ray. I am surprised at the prices. For comparison, most standard DVD's sell at 15-17 Euro for new titles, 12 for less recent releases. I just know the average consumer is totally confused.

So how should they have done it?

Sony is trying to launch a new era of high definition video, both in games and video. Why not use the opportunity to make an "Early adopters Bundle" with one free game, one Blu-Ray Movie like the new James Bond, and a free HDMI or HD Component cable in the box with the Playstation 3? Those who had shelled out more than 600 Euros for the privilege of being first would now be spreading the marketing virus to all their friends, showing both the marvels of the games but also of the video, etc. And there would have been pre-loaded content to get you on your way, whetting the appetite for more.

Instead, they have a powerful shell of a machine and lots of promises of excitement to come. Sony just launched a Rolls Royce with 3 wheels and made a historic marketing blunder combining daft bundling concepts and amateurish logistics. Watch heads roll later in the year.....tick tick...

The Day the Music Died?

According to the Radio and Internet Newsletter, the US Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) has just announced its decision on Internet radio royalty rates, rejecting all of the arguments made by Webcasters and instead adopting the "per play" rate proposal put forth by SoundExchange(a digital music fee collection body created by the RIAA).
RAIN says the rates that the Board has decided on, effective retroactively through the beginning of 2006. They are as follows:

$.0008 per performance 2007

$.0011 per performance 2008

$.0014 per performance 2009

$.0018 per performance 2010

A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays. The minimum royalty fee is $500 per channel per year. There is no clear definition of what a 'channel' is for services that make up individualized playlists for listeners.

For noncommercial webcasters, the fee will be $500 per channel, for up to 159,140 ATH (aggregate tuning hours) per month. They would then have to pay the commercial rate for all transmissions above that number.

Participants are granted a 15 day period wherein they have the opportunity to ask the CRB for a re-hearing. Within 60 days of this final determination, the decision is supposed to be published in the Federal Register, along with any technical corrections that the Board may wish to make.

Basically, that wipes out any chance of profit for niche radio networks on the web. The advertising they are able to command will never be enough to pay those bills in 2007, let alone in 2010. And remember these fees are simply the performance rights and do not include money that goes to the original composers.

It is also not clear whether these sorts of rights would apply if music was streamed to mobile phones, like on the DMB/DVB-H type networks being rolled out in Europe.

So what will this mean? A mass migration of US webradio services to servers outside the US? A great boost to non-RIAA music like that found on Podsafe music network? I think it just means that US radio stations will kill their Internet radio services for the time being until these lunatics realise they are truly throttling the music business. Hopefully it means European music stations now have a chance of a global audience. Radio is certainly scoring a series of own-goals.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Please give the Free CD's Back

This is brilliant. (Internet) radio stations in the US are angry that the rights holders associations in the US want to charge a crazy amount of money to stream music over the web. In my view, the RIAA are moraly bankrupt - these guys just don't get it. So this station in Chicago came up with a truly brilliant protest.. This came in yesterday.

CHICAGO IL – Records and CDs have long been expected as prizes by radio listeners along with station t-shirts, until now. In what appears to be an act of solidarity with SoundExchange and the RIAA, 9 FM Radio in Chicago will no longer give away any free music. “When I read that the RIAA and SoundExchange needed money so badly that they were going to price gouge independent web streamers and radio stations who stream online, I knew we had to do our part.”, said Matt DuBiel, Director of Programming for 9 FM. “In the face of the RIAA’s struggles, it just doesn’t seem fair for us to be giving away CDs (for free) to music fans fully capable of paying for the music themselves. We’re inviting everyone who has won a CD from 9 FM or any other radio station in Chicago this year, to return it to us and we’ll exchange it for a 9 FM T-shirt and give the CDs back to the RIAA. Radio stations need to be able to stream online affordably.”

9 FM has been airing public service styled announcements encouraging listeners to voice their concerns over the latest ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board (to raise streaming royalty fees) by signing a petition posted on 9 FM’s website. The CRB is adopting the “ ‘per play’ rate proposal put forth by SoundExchange (a digital music fee collection body created by the RIAA)...[The] math suggests that the royalty rate decision — for the performance alone, not even including composers' royalties! — is in the in the ballpark of 100% or more of total revenues.'” 9 FM currently pays royalty fees (thousands of dollars per month) supporting the writers, publishers and artists in the music industry.

Newsweb Radio Company’s 9 FM trimulcasts on 92.5 fm (WDEK), 92.7 fm (WKIE), 99.9 fm (WRZA) and streams online at… - at least for now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chilling Effects

Do you know your online rights? Have you received a letter asking you to remove information from a Web site or to stop engaging in an activity? Are you concerned about liability for information that someone else posted to your online forum? If so, this site is for you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Picnic Pickup

The Amsterdam Picnic 07 has set up a website for those thinking of taking part. Set up a profile to try it out. Now I'm getting "pick-up" mail, not Picnic stuff. Has the site been compromised? Last thing I need.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dutch Railways - Trouble at the Terminus

I have a running gag with Dutch railways who are trying to adapt ideas from the airline business but are so screwed up with their own bureaucracy that they are going nowhere fast. No wifi in the trains yet - free wifi in many Dutch buses. You can print out your own ticket at most airline sites. Dutch railways still wants to send you a ticket through the post. Having booked a ticket for yourself, there is no way to see the seating plan on international trains so you can ensure you're sitting next to a colleague on the same train. You can't book a ticket more than 3 months in advance. It's a long list of what's not possible. Several years ago I registered Dutch Railways as a URL - you'd think a bit more logical than the current address which is No-one has bothered to call so far.

Oh, and don't try and pick up a guest from Amsterdam city station. They have put up electronic departure boards telling you the times and platforms when trains get the hell out of Amsterdam. But several friends of mine have noted that Amsterdam city station has no arrival boards. Which platform will my friend be arriving on? Good luck with that one!

Borat - Brilliant Legal Copy

I see the DVD inside my legal copy of the Borat video looks as though it has been burned in some pirate bootleg copying factory somewhere in Kazakhstan. Clever piece of marketing. I like campaigns that follow through their parodies. Its like when you try to get in touch with customer service at - the letter comes back asking why you expect any service at all from a company like despair. Actually, they have brilliant customer service - that's the joke.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cafe American - Love & Hate 2

My colleague at the meeting this afternoon had the answer. They themselves are not hungry enough. I also tend not to trust hotel on-line booking systems that cannot spell accommodation.

Cafe American - Love & Hate

Over the years I have had reasons to attend meetings in the Cafe American hotel near Leidseplein in Amsterdam. It is a stylish hotel dating back to 1900 - and the large cafe reminds me of the great cafes you find in Paris or Vienna, rather than New York or San Francisco where they often chuck you out after an hour unless you keep ordering coffee every 20 minutes. But the service at the Cafe American in Amsterdam is simply awful and it hasn't got better over the years- one minute they're all over you, the next they have forgotten you exist. Everyone points to someone else - no-one takes responsibility.

TNO wins prize with Triangular

The Dutch technology institution TNO in Holland is known for serious work, rather than games. But this Triangular game has obvious applications for the military as well. Recorded this interview with TNO at the 3GSM exhibition in Barcelona Spain. Brilliant place to see new ideas.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And the winner is

Been spending the last few days watching HD pictures in darkened rooms with the (only) three HD compatible receivers on the European market. There is a clear winner - the Topfield model. The BBC HD channel is superb, especially when they show some of the excerpts from Planet Earth. The menu structure of the competition is really confusing - looks like an engineering alpha has been let onto the public. The Topfield has a USB port so you can upgrade the device by plugging in a USB stick with a new version of the firmware. Clever.

The BBC is looking at ways to save around 2 billion pounds because the licence agreement was lower than they hoped. Well they should make the investment in making programmes in HD - I guess they may delay the switch to HD for newsgather and for the TV regions.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

iRadio set back

Seems Motorola has dropped plans to make a phone that can download audio/radio files and play them back on the device or (via Bluetooth) in the car. The site is still up, but they are not going to be mailing you some time soon. I note, too, that Radiioscape in the UK is shifting its emphasis away from digital radio and more towards mobile TV. The digital radio market outside the UK isn't going anywhere very fast.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sky HD

I see that Sky is starting to push HD services in the UK now - with a receiver being 299 pounds sterling. Not many HD capable receivers in the market yet - 3 to be precise. I'd say the software in these boxes is Beta plus....not quite ready for prime time. Saw this stand in Norwich Castle Mall while visiting the fair city last week.