Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Revenge of the Slogans

The Fortis slogan for this Belgian/Netherlands Bank looks a bit silly at the moment. Should read - Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Playing with Style Sheets

Having seen recent quotes for a website for a client, I got curious about the world of Cascading Style Sheets for my own holding page. It is amazing what great ideas are out there on the Interwebs...and how easy it is to make something engaging.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whats Hot and Not?

What can you afford to miss in this recession?

I help to drive several global knowledge networks of media and creative professionals. After some extensive comparing of notes, we've concluded that one way to avoid economic meltdown is to critically examine your participation in all conferences and festivals. Not only are there far too many, they often boast that they are "unique" in providing a platform for speakers and specialists to find each other and do business.

It is strange that there's not yet a "consumer guide" to this multi-million dollar business. So we have been asking the questions: What would happen if conference X didn't happen next time? What opportunities would be missed? Which conferences are worth the hassle of an airport frisking? Why can so few conferences give a clear picture of their return on your investment? For our clients we have now compiled an independent short-list of what is hot - and what is definitely not. The precise short-list depends on your interests and role in the media, but it is a short list. We will spare you the long list of conferences-going-nowhere and hype festivals for the newly rich and famous.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Digital Media Crunch

This global economic meltdown in late 2008 is affecting the media industry as much as the financial sector. However, remember that there will be winners as well as losers. In the previous dot-domb era just after September 11th 2001, several great media companies did very well. Why?

They understood the needs of their audience and had a clear, sustainable focus on what they wanted to do. They prospered in difficult times. It is no different now.

My most recent commissions have been helping companies restructure their ways of being creative. Forget the term "new" media. We live in an era of now media...for most of us digital switch-over has happened!

There have already been plenty of experiments with emerging technology to know what works, what has potential for success and what should be shut down as soon as possible to save resources for better ideas. The problem for most companies is not introducing new ideas. Instead many media companies are drowning in their legacy, trapped by self-imposed routines. This weighs them down to the point of disaster by an inability to shake off the old ideas.

Fear is the biggest barrier to creative change. For some programmes genre's, audience involvement is becoming an excellent way to gain both awareness and trust. I mean audience in the research and production stage, not just when the material has been shot and edited. Providing access to great ideas is becoming more and more important - especially if the audience has already paid for the material through taxation

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Preparing for the AIB Awards

Looks like the results on the stock market are inversely proportional to the quality of entries to the Association for International Broadcasting Media Excellence Awards this year. Some really brilliant ideas amongst over 300 entries. Here's a sneak peak of the venue in central London on November 12th. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rubbish 3D - Cool Glasses


I think the current economic crash will also halt the development of 3D movie making. Having watched Journey to the Centre of the Earth at IBC, I was grateful for the experience, but escaped with thanks to the world of HD production. The depth doesn't add anything to the story, except when they artificially push something towards the audience as part of some forced storyline. Compared to films like Incredible India on a 4K digital projector, I know immediately which is the more pleasurable experience. And you don't need the glasses.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stunning Stockholm

Wandered around Skansen this morning, a mixture of a living history museum and a zoo (featuring animals found in Sweden). Skansen turns out to be the world’s oldest open-air museum, situated on the island of Djurgården within the Stockholm city limits. You can go by tram - or grab a ferry which costs 30 Kr and takes just 7 minutes from the centre of town. Visitors meet a miniature historical Sweden reflected both in the buildings and their surroundings – from the Skåne farmstead in the South to the Sami camp in the North. The buildings are life-size, it is just the distances that have been shrunk. The venues illustrate the different social conditions in which people lived in Sweden between the 16th century and the first half of the 20th century. The majority of houses and farmsteads are from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.

The colours of the trees this time of year are stunning. Lucky with the weather on Saturday the afternoon it clouded over.

Friday, October 17, 2008

1worldspace bankrupt - The long slow decline

WorldSpace, Inc. (NASDAQ:WRSP) has announced (at last) that it, along with its U.S. subsidiaries WorldSpace Systems Corporation and AfriSpace, Inc. have filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

The WorldSpace Board of Directors unanimously determined that Chapter 11 reorganization was necessary for the Company to engage in an orderly process to raise sufficient funds to repay its senior secured and convertible notes by means of either a sale of the Company or its assets, or a recapitalization of the Company.

WorldSpace says it will continue to operate its business and manage its assets as a ”debtor-in-possession” under the jurisdiction of the court and in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and the orders of the court. The holders of the Company’s existing senior secured and convertible notes have agreed to provide, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, a “debtor-in-possession” financing facility of up to $13 million for a period of 90 days in order to facilitate a sale transaction. The financing facility is expected to enable the Company to continue to pay salaries of critical employees and continue operations which are critical to preserving the value of its core assets through the term of the facility.

So who's going to buy it and how did anyone value this system as worth 13 million? Lets face it, since launch, Worldspace has done nothing but enjoy a long slow decline. They provided an audio-only platform too late to many markets where video was already dominant, and pay-radio to areas with no-tradition for paying for radio. Perhaps the biggest failure was their inability to provide an electronic programme guide of what was on. The marketing hype in the early days "serving 3.2 billion people of the world" and claiming the satellite could be received in cars was just beyond belief. They made an aborted attempt to service Africa with Pay-Radio, but the radios they offered were too expensive (10-30 times an analogue FM set), and the mini-satellite dishes had to be on window-sills or outside on a balcony. If you put the dish outside the sun either destroyed the plastic (UV made it brittle) or the rain got it.

I am using the past tense. In theory, 1worldsapce can pay its bills and get out of this mess. I cannot see this happen in practice. Show me one successful radio station that has built its business plan on distribution via 1Worldspace! Please! Sadly, there isn't one, because the business model was flawed from the start. There is no such thing as international local commercial radio.

And as for providing more radio to Italy in 2009......

WORLDSPACE expects that, beginning in late 2008, it will begin broadcasting throughout Italy with 40-50 channels of commercial-free music, news, entertainment and sports programming, 24 hours a day. WORLDSPACE plans to use the most advanced digital audio technology available today (MPEG-4 aacPLUS v.2) and the service will be promoted extensively via all the media as well as other in-market activities.

WORLDSPACE's programming will include an innovative, unique channel exclusively dedicated to FIAT GROUP AUTOMOBILES, its dealers and customers. For the first time ever, an automobile manufacturer will have a radio channel through which it will offer both promotional and customer-assistance services.

Are FIAT cars so unreliable that they would use a satellite radio service to offer customer assistance? Help...I'm confused. The nonsense continues...

Beginning in late 2009, FIAT GROUP AUTOMOBILES will introduce WORLDSPACE satellite radios as factory-installed (OEM) optional equipment on certain of its Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia models. In addition, FIAT GROUP AUTOMOBILES will be able to offer WORLDSPACE portable satellite radio receivers to its customers through its aftermarket channel.

Probably not anymore.

Oh, and I see Sirius has let 50 staff go this week as the credit crisis rips into the US tech and entertainment sector. That was on the cards for some time.....but Sirius is another story. Would I recommend anyone to invest in the satellite radio business? No. Have not met any project yet that did the proper market assessment and provided people with what they wanted at the right price.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Podcast Decline

Is it just me,or has anyone else noticed the quiet demise of many podcasts? They have either migrated into the video vodcast or you're hearing an on-demand piece of radio that aired previously. Yes, there are some exceptions, like This Week in Tech, but in other sectors there's a lot of podfading going on. Making good audio that engages people in a conversation does take skill.

In others news, I am still amazed there is a 1Worldspace ( wow look at the stock plunge to under a dollar) and that anyone believes that DRM, digital radio below 30 MHz, has a hope of catching on. It seemed rather obvious that the EBU-WorldDMB statement about the future of digital radio did not mention DRM at all.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cleese on Seesmic

Re: ReKDFA/ John Cleese on Seesmic Tuesday 7th at NOON Pacific Time

Despite cutbacks at Seesmic as a result of the economic downturn, there was some light in the form of great candid responses to questions put to John Cleese. Normally, the public wouldn't get access to the great actor/comedian, but this is a new social experiment and John played ball. He's also been playing around with podcasting too. Getting access to people like John may be the clue to the future business model for Seesmic. They promote themselves as making video conversations possible. But people like John give you a great subject matter to talk about.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Four Pulls All Radio Plans

The UK's Channel 4 has scrapped plans to launch three DAB/online radio stations - music and entertainment station E4 Radio, speech station Channel 4 Radio, and music station Pure4. Doing so will yield 10 million of a total of 100 million pounds it needs to save to stay around. 15 jobs will go..although that doesn't seem a lot of people to make high quality radio channels. I guess all the content would have been commissioned, so this news is really bad news for the UK independent radio production sector.

That will make it a lot more difficult for the fellow shareholders in 4 Digital Group, which has announced plans to roll out the second UK national commercial digital radio multiplex.

The future expansion of commercial-funded DAB digital radio in the UK has already been clouded with the closure of a number of stations by GCap Media, citing high distribution costs. According to today's Media Guardian, commercial radio groups have been reluctant to invest further in the platform because, despite encouraging takeup of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio sets, they have been unable to make it pay.

The big problem with radio remains its inability to tag interesting content or to send a great bit of radio to a friend. Yes, there are groups working on solutions, but meanwhile the commercial side of the biz is in trouble.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Storm in a Tea Cup?

I can see the Blackberry Storm is not going to be a device for me. The screen has a clickthrough method of entering data. Navigation up and down is done by press and hold, not the sort of touch and flick idea you see on the iPhone. Only ever send short SMS's, so the keyboard is going to be wasted on me. Blackberry has definitely got the business market, but the consumer market will be tough going.

Spin on Iriver SPINN

Never been a fan of iRiver, the Korean flashplayer iPod wannabe company. Whilst their designs have been quite nice in the past, the user interface on their smaller flash players has been truly awful. Only geeks could operate the dam things. Added to that their European sales office has no clue on how to work with journalists. Now Engadget is showing the new iRiver Spin, though they don't seem to be making much of the DMB capability on the new player. That's cause DMB isn't rolling out in the US I guess.

The prices are outrageous in the US - bearing in mind the cost of flash memory these days. We get 4GB (US$249.99) and 8GB (US$289.99) varieties. The 4GB version looks outdated before it can't sell a player with that kind of memory these days. The device has a 3.3-inch, 480 x 272 AMOLED display, support for MP3, WMA, OGG, APE, FLAC, AVI, and WMV files, DMB tuner (in the US, FM I guess), and Bluetooth 2.0. No support for Mac (or AAC files), and perhaps more importantly, won't work with iTunes.

So nice design, but watch for it in the remaindered section of Curry's/Dixons at the start of next year. Its the wrong mix of technologies at clearly the wrong price.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No hesitation in recommending this great site. They make great demotivators, both for the office wall (and an interesting set of instructional videos as well). What's more, I like the fact that their newsletters keep in character. For those still with a sense of humour (or a feeling of "I told you so!")

Yet again, Despair is proud to unveil another Brilliant addition to the Demotivators Canon- one perfectly suited for such times as these. For most of us, these are days of white knuckles and dark prospects. But for the select few who enjoy the commanding heights of industry, they are instead times of polished fingernails and golden parachutes. How did it come to this? How did the nation that once repudiated aristocracy and celebrated meritocracy become a place where financial gains were privatized while financial losses were socialized?

What are you asking me for? Like I know. I dropped out of community college. I make a crap salary and work in a dingy cubicle that smells like phenol and fish curry (thanks I.T. guys!). And I've got about as much chance at upward mobility as Leonard Bast- and that's after he quit the Porphyrion!

But here we are. In a capitalism married to socialism while flirting with plutocracy and considering an affair with kleptocracy. And no, I'm not a Marxist. I just want a system that's fair. I just want less corruption- or more opportunity to participate in it.

Please follow the example...

I see IKEA in Canada offers priority parking for hybrid cars. Now if only Amsterdam. Rotterdam, The Hague, would follow this example. I think it is great to reward this kind of investment. (credit -

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nightmare Plaxo Signatures - E164 Please

Plaxo is a great idea. A community that started with a simple way to keep business cards up to date. Except that a growing number of people don't know their own phone number.

The problem is that people are updating their phone numbers in Plaxo with the wrong format phone number, which means they no longer work when dialled from a smartphone or from within Outlook. Goodness knows who started it, but it isn't helpful.

James O'Neill started a campaign for real numbers last year. Let him outline the problem.

International calls to the UK don't use the 0. If you call me from abroad you dial your local code for international, followed by 44 for the UK, 118 for reading, 9093080 for my phone at Microsoft. And convention - an ITU standard called E164 - says you write this +44 118 909 3080. The standard doesn't care if I write +441189093080 or +44 (118) 909-3080 spaces dashes and brackets are ignored. E164 numbers dial correctly from mobile phones - even when they've roamed to other countries so to facilitate use outside their home country numbers should be stored in E164 format.

But now the problem

People in Britain have started writing +44 (0) to mean "Dial international followed by +44 outside the UK, and 0 in Britain". Nobody who lives in Britain needs to be told this any more, but it's actually messing up databases. +44 (0) 118 909 3080 looks like a valid E.164 number to people or computers which expect one. Foreigners will dial the 0 and not connect and Smartphones and so forth in the the UK will turn the number into 0 (0) 118 909 3080 - which won't work.

The sickness has spread to other European countries too. The Dutch often use such a notation in business cards. Its coming to a point where I think I'll switch off Plaxo because it is polluting an otherwise correct database. Sadly, this pollution is coming from my own colleages and friends. How do I persuade them to stop it?

For the record....

When "Subscriber Trunk Dialing" was introduced into Britain the Post Office came up with a simple system for long distance codes. A leading zero told the it was calling another exchange. Most of the codes (with exceptions like 01 for London) used names of the telephone exchanges, A, B and C were on 2 on the phone dial so, Bath, Cardiff, Carlisle had codes 022x. R was on 7 so, Bristol Brighton and Bradford had 027x codes. Some were a bit odd - Oxford had 0865 - for university. There have been various re-vamps of the numbering system. London codes split into 071 and 081, then 0171 and 0181, then 020 7 and 020 8. Reading (among others) lost its identifiable number and became 0118 But 0 still tells the system that what follows is an area code.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rwanda - Mobiles and Community Radio

It ceases to amaze me why the Telecom sector and community radio don't get much closer to each other. They have so much in common, but their jargon is so completely different. In the end, it is all about connecting people, as in the excerpt from the GSMA documentary on Rwanda. End of rant....


I've been curious to watch how Nokia et al have reacted to the Apple Applications store for the iPhone. I know where to get stuff for the iPod Touch, but where do you go for cool N95 apps? There are sites, but nothing like the store that Apple has created.

I have a N95 8GB which is a great phone, but the navigation is nothing like as straightforward as the iPhone. A few days ago, I discovered a little application from Joiku, a Finnish mobile software house. For 10 Euro you can turn the N95 into an iPhone, well sort of. The buttons make navigation in the phone SOOOOO much easier, although the N95 doesn't have a touch sensitive screen.

If you're willing to shell out 15 Euro more, you can turn your Nokia N or E series phone into a WifiHotspot. Forget your dongle, just connect your laptop via wifi to the 3G phone. Great if you already have a fixed rate for the mobileweb. Also available for the RIM’s Blackberries. The lite version is free, but I wanted a version that allows more types of downloads, like Flash. Clever stuff.

Vizrt Visky experiments

One of my clients, Vizrt, is doing some fascinating development of 3D graphics for websites, allowing TV stations to reuse the graphics they have already made for TV. You need to the get the plug-in from - doesn't work with the Mac just yet. But it really rocks in Firefox and IE7. I believe this is one of a new set of tools stations will use to counteract Google's move into the radio and TV advertising.

BBC Indian Ocean Relay Celebrates

Praslin, Seychelles
Originally uploaded by bodji

Today if you happen to be in the Seychelles, you're invited to an open day being organised at the BBC's East African relay station. They're 20 years old this month. Interesting to read the discussions in Hansard that happened in the UK House of Lords in 1984. This goes back to the days well before the place was built. Despite the discussion, I would have thought that the BBC's Lesotho and Ascension Island relay stations were providing good coverage into apartheid South Africa. South Africa was indeed busy with an extensive VHF (sic)- FM radio service for all languages, so as to encourage listeners to switch off shortwave and flood the market with cheap FM radios.

§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the British Broadcasting Corporation's signal to the Republic of South Africa is less strong than we would wish. But we are satisfied that on the whole those who wish to listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation in the republic are able to do so without excessive difficulty. Steps are being taken to improve reception in East Africa, which should also lead to some improvement in South Africa.

§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer, which I think is disappointing. Would he not agree that the Republic of South Africa should be a priority target for the BBC not only because of the differences with the South African Government that we have and that the South African press have, but also because in South Africa there are very many people in all the communities who are sympathetic towards, and are anxious to have news of, this country? Would it not be possible to resume the broadcasting in Afrikaans?

§ Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as I think the noble Lord knows, the BBC's former Afrikaans service was terminated in 1957. I have to say that there are no plans for its reintroduction. It is worth noting that broadcasts such as this on the short-wave band require the listener to have a short-wave receiver and that, generally speaking, the people in South Africa appear to prefer the VHS service of the local system.


§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Lord said that reception in Southern Africa is not as good as the Government themselves would wish, but that some improvement has been made. Can he tell the House precisely what steps are being taken towards improved reception and what are the obstacles in its way, in view of the very strong arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill —arguments which are shared, I believe, by the great majority of noble Lords in this House to the effect that South Africa occasionally should hear the truth from the BBC.

§ Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I believe that they can hear the BBC signals even now; but we are in negotiation with the Government of the Seychelles to build a relay station on those islands, and that relay station, though intended primarily for East Africa, will bring benefits as far south as South Africa.

Looks like they didn't really understand what was going on then.

Launched in October 1988, and currently run on behalf of BBC World Service by VT Communications, the station transmits BBC World Service programmes on shortwave to an estimated audience of up to nine million listeners across East Africa. The BBC Indian Ocean relay station in the Seychelles broadcasts BBC World Service in a range of languages including the BBC's English-language output for Africa as well as programmes in Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Somali and French.

The Indian Ocean Relay is probably one of the most important SW stations in the VTC chain of shortwave broadcast station, because the areas its targets do not have very developed broadcasting systems. For me, shortwave is still the medium of last resort, but in this case it is more than justified. Must be nice to work there :-)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Palin isn't camera shy

Doc Searls points to an article a few weeks back showing that Sarah knows exactly how to play to the cameras. She used to be a sports reporter for KTUU, Anchorage's NBC affiliate station. Below, watch a clip of Sarah Heath as she was back in 1988. She's not shy of playing to the camera. That certainly has main street appeal.

Give Blood!

Give Blood!
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Blood sweat and tears all in one corner, just off O'Connell street Dublin.

Newsroom at RTE

Newsroom at RTE
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Public radio and TV are totally separated in Ireland, with the exception of news production. Wonder if the new Chief Technical Officer will think about more cross-media production? There's a lot of talent in Dublin - and the radio is much more conversational than elsewhere in Euroland.

Disc Machine

Disc Machine
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Hard Disc Machine? Sign to a mystery device.

Worrying Last Line

Worrying Last Line
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Weight Loss or Lose Weight? Something in the middle perhaps

Agree with that!

Agree with that!
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Just love the signs in Dublin... a true feast for the photographer.

Logical Move

Logical Move
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
The train wouldn't reach that far....

Railway at Croke Park

Going through photos of a recent trip to Dublin. The railway line near the Croke Park stadium looks a bit dangerous....a runaway train would be derailed into the canal. Double disaster?

How the Markets Really Work

How awfully true. And look that is was recorded well before the state we're in now. It would seem from the comments that the humour doesn't travel well internationally. This is satire. Clearly some take great offense.

Picasa 3 Beta Launches

Worth playing with. This free program is brilliant for quick retouching of photos and cataloguing your photos and movies. Now Picasa3 just got a lot better.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Palin Calls a Friend..sortof

Tina Fey was on Saturday Night Live once again impersonating VP candidate Sarah Palin, opposite Amy Poehler's playing Katie Couric. It reminded me of the Not the Nine O'Clock News sketches in the 80's on the BBC. Sadly, the real performance by Palin in the VP debate last night wasn't far off the parody, especially towards the end.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

NRK at Mobile Monday Amsterdam

Mobile Monday Amsterdam is turning into a great "don't miss" event, with a nice mix of local and international speakers. This past Monday (29th September), during a special session hosted by public broadcaster NOS, they invited Gunnar Garfors, Director of Development at NRK. He jumped off a plane from Oslo (with literally minutes to spare) to explain how public broadcaster NRK has been experimenting with mobile services for the last 5 years. I think it is very clever how they have formed a consortium with the commercial broadcasters to work together on building this platform. Gunnar explains in this video why they went for DMB as opposed to the competing DVB-H technology. That's interesting because KPN in the Netherlands has now decided that DVB-H will be the platform for live Mobile TV in the Netherlands, so exactly the opposite conclusions. (It might also have something to do with the fact that KPN runs the DTT DVB-T platform here - DAB has failed to capture anyone's imagination in Holland). Well worth having a look. Also tip of the hat to MOMO Amsterdam for recording these presentations professionally and sharing with the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

BBC Blogger in Residence notes that the BBC has employed Steve Bowbrick as a blogger-in-residence for six months, to look at making their site more open, and to specifically work on the Common Platform project. It’s worth keeping an eye on his progress (he promises to blog everything).

His specific aim is to address these questions for the BBC Future and Technology team:

• How open can they really be?

• Should we share this insight with outsiders?

• Should we be opening our banks of content and code to licence fee payers, entrepreneurs and organisations?