Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Golden Tulip Hotels - End is Nigh?

I see that Golden Tulip Hotel chain, which has 780 hotels outside the Netherlands, is in severe financial trouble and has asked for bankruptcy protection. I remember in the 80's when KLM was running it - and expanded the chain of Dutch hotels worldwide. I stayed in one in Colombo, Sri Lanka and was impressed.

But then I stayed at one in Accra, Ghana and swore never to bother again. I think the staff had started to believe their own publicity brochures and were totally trapped in their daily routine. The prices were way over the top - and I noticed the KLM crew from the plane were staying in another hotel (novatel) downtown. I will never forget the business centre which had a terribly slow web connection and charged people 15 dollars an hour for the use of a tiny meeting room. That made it the most expensive real estate in the whole of Accra. We went outside to a coffee bar further into town for our meeting.

So may be, just maybe, this is a case of the clients voting with their credit cards.

Lee Bryant - Learning from 20th century mistakes

The 20th Century was an exception... from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

Lee Bryant of Headshift (HQ in London) is able to put complex trends into context. Why are large creative media corporations struggling to be creative? How are you measuring success, compared to a couple of centuries ago. During the recent liftconference.com in Geneva, Lee gave a great 5 minute open stage presentation. He explained his thoughts as to why the 20th century got it wrong with corporate social media. That prompted me to grab him for a short interview to explain. Watch this, and then check out his presentation from the LIFT website below.

The 3G Doctor will see you now....

The 3G Doctor is ready to see you now... from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

I bumped into David Doherty at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. In this extended interview, he explains a number of issues all connected with mobile health. He is actively busy with developing the 3G Doctor concept, but his blog is a mine of information on what he has found elsewhere in the world....and that's an enormous resource of ideas, concepts, projects and comments. I asked him to explain what problem he was trying to solve - and we then started discussing what strategies Google and the UN are adopting. Enjoy these highlights (its actually a avalanche of applications for mobile and health), and then head over to his blog.

David is also an active member of Forum Oxford...if you're interested in mobile you should sign up there too. www.forumoxford.com. See you there on the 24th.

Jonathan MacDonald

Jonathan MacDonald - Watch this guy! from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

Part of a new series of videos I am releasing under the title In Search of Problems Solved. Jonathan MacDonald is a brilliant strategist - doing similar things to what I do, but coming from it at a very different angle. Is traditional advertising dead - you bet it is! I am just amazed at how slow the agencies are to understand how to use social media to get attention.

Skype - Not Quite iPhone App

Lots of chatter on twitter about Skype launching an application for the Apple iPhone this week. Looks good until you see that the application only works with the wifi capability on the phone, not the 3G network. And although you can see whether your Skype friends are on-line (so you can phone them for free), if they are using another messaging system, then you're out of luck.

At DLD in Munich I met Geraldine Wilson from Truphone and she explained how their application goes one stage further, solving the problems above. You can call a anyone (including a Skype contact ) on Truphone when out of range of the Wi-Fi using what they call Truphone Anywhere. The same system is also IM agnostic, so it supports most of the popular instant messaging clients. The Truphone Anywhere service is able to make calls when not in Wi-Fi by routing the first leg of the call over the cellular network (not data over 3G) and then taking the call from there over Truphone's network, allowing consumers to make international calls at for next to nothing while on the move and out of Wi-Fi. The cost of the call will simply be a local call with a network operator (in my case already part of the contracted bundled minutes) and then the Truphone rate to the country being called.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nokia and radio

By the end of 2008, Nokia says they had sold 425 million devices with digital music players. In addition to that, thay say they have sold 700 million devices with built in (FM) radio capability. Phones like the N85 even have a built in FM transmitter so you can play the music in the car on the existing car radio (its super low power, but handy to have).

Mark Selby has been giving a talk at several conferences about the importance of radio to the mobile industry. Given his background (including World Radio Geneva) it is perhaps not surprising that he's interested in forging partnerships between Nokia and broadcasters.

Nokia on radio's importance from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

Part of my current series of projects involves working with community stations in West Africa to build sustainable business models that bridge both the radio and mobile industries. They have a lot in common, but currently the gulf in terminology is keeping great ideas from happening. I think that as handset sales level off - and broadcasters evaluate the effectiveness of their broadcast platforms, that the two will start working out what they have in common. Believe me, it's already happening in West Africa. Contact me if you want to know more.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drinking NOS

Drinking NOS
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
You can't drink the NOS in the Netherlands. That's not to say drinking doesn't go on at the NOS. Greetings from downtown Austin Texas.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Forum Oxford Conference Trailer

Forum Oxford Conference 2009 from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

Have decided to do more experiments with Vimeo and HD editing because the waiting time for Youtube has become a pain. First upload was material I shot for a 2009 trailer for a conference coming up next month in Oxford. Highly recommended if you are interested in the mobile space.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Austin Captiol

Austin Captiol
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Glorious sunshine at last. It was raining when I first arrived at SxSW

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BBC Worldwide Refocusses

In July 2008, the BBC Trust launched a review of BBC Worldwide's mandate, strategy and governance arrangements. The aim was twofold: to see if any changes were needed to reflect experience since the present arrangements were established in the current BBC Charter; and to consider concerns expressed by others in the market about the impact of BBC Worldwide.

The BBC Trust says....

Successive governments have encouraged the BBC to exploit the commercial value of its intellectual property and to return this value to public service output. The Trust fully supports this aim, and alongside the primacy of the public services welcomes BBC Worldwide's record of increasing profitability and the benefits it brings to licence fee payers.

Our review has been driven by two concerns. The first is to ensure that BBC Worldwide's strategy is properly aligned with the BBC's public service interest and so has a positive impact on the BBC's brand and reputation. The second is to ensure that in its strategy and operations BBC Worldwide is duly sensitive to the concerns of other commercial players in the market.

Our emerging thinking can be summarised as follows:

* The Trust should bring greater clarity to the direction, parameters and strategic priorities of BBC Worldwide's commercial activities in the UK and overseas, to ensure that they align properly with delivery of the BBC's public purposes
* We should make changes to BBC Worldwide's detailed control framework to establish a more contained focus for its operations
* None of this cuts across our ambition that BBC Worldwide should maintain and develop its commercial vigour and strength. In our view this is perfectly compatible with a challenging remit and clearer parameters for its operation and strategic focus

Other considerations

As part of the review the Trust has considered the rationale for the "first look" arrangements under which BBC Worldwide has an opportunity to acquire most BBC rights before they are offered to competitors. The Trust remains satisfied that the rationale in favour of the first look arrangement within existing structures remains strong. In particular it enables proper control of the BBC's brand and reputation to be maintained as its content is exploited commercially. The Trust is also mindful of the economies of scale it creates and has noted that many other content producers use similar 'vertically integrated' approaches.

The Trust and the BBC Executive have also been considering whether any adjustments to the current governance arrangements for the BBC's commercial activities might be necessary to ensure that the mechanics underpinning the controls are both streamlined and effective. This work is closely linked to the current public policy debate about BBC Worldwide and is ongoing.

It comes after the division’s controversial £90 million acquisition of the Lonely Planet guides and the subsequent launch of a spin-off magazine which, unlike most Worldwide products, is neither tied to nor related to an existing BBC show.

I still believe this was a brilliant strategic move, but they should have concentrated on building a mobile platform to exploit the content, rather than trying to launch a magazine.

Though BBC Worldwide cited economic pressures for recently shutting BBCGreen.com with the loss of four jobs, some industry observers believe the environment site exceeded the broadcaster’s remit and parts of the site looked as though the corporation was campaigning.

BBC Worldwide has doubled its profits in the past year and made £112.5 million before tax in the 12 months to March, largely due to lucrative sales of TV shows and formats overseas like Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing.

Though the trust says it wants to maintain Worldwide’s commercial “vigour and strength”, chairman Sir Michael Lyons told Times Online: “We believe that [Worldwide] needs a tighter set of guidelines. We want to see a little less activity overseas, and for Worldwide to predominantly concentrate on BBC intellectual property.” Lyons says the public value tests carried out before Worldwide makes any acquisitions “will be tougher in the future”.

As Digital Britain rolls on, the trust won’t pass comment on the possibility of Worldwide forming a new PSB JV with Channel 4, but is working with the BBC executive to assess the public benefit of such a move. The real questions surrounding the regulation and remit of Worldwide will have to wait until that is sorted out.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Which way in Prague?

Which way in Prague?
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Travelling for a bit on a research project and filming as I go. Normal service will resume shortly.

No noise at night

No noise at night
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
my hotel in Prague is very clear with its signage

Coils of Pastry

Coils of Pastry
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Ye olde fresh Trdelnik. Of course

Prague trying to be spring

bit too cold yet...but then its only the start of March

No barefeet at Radio Prague

So do people have a habit of walking into the Radio Prague tape archive in bare feet?

Hard Rock Cafe Prague

the cafe isn't open yet, but the shop selling merchandise definitely is. Got to get the priorities right

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Patrick Gyger - not impressed about the future

So what went wrong with our visions of the future? This was a great opening speech at LIFT-09.

Rieback's RFID warning

Melanie Rieback gave an enlightening talk at LIFT-09 on hacking RFID systems. She's part of a team that is a professional pain in the butt for the RFID industry - the new low end of computing. What's worrying is that the Internet of things will have the same problems of attacks on physical objects. It is good that people in Amsterdam are thinking in these ways - forcing us back to fundamentals.

Vint Cerf - where the Internet's going.

The father of the Internet speaks at LIFT-09. What a nice man. He's mellowed over the years since I last saw him in Amsterdam many moons ago and become a truly great human being. He spent a long time before and after his talk at LIFT-09 just chatting with people and taking a genuine interest.

Bill Thompson on the end of Privacy

One nation under CCTV. Bill (of Digital Planet fame on BBC WS) gave a great short talk about the end of privacy at LIFT-09.