Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Next steps for me in 2011

Currently working on a new series of presentations researching into the integration of social media with traditional broadcasting. A lot of international media seems to be collapsing at the moment, but the ways of storytelling on emerging platforms has never been more exciting than now. Would like to work with more creative companies working on the next steps for storytelling... I also really enjoy organising break-out sessions (2-3 days) to come up with a media strategy for the next three years. Trying to do more of that. So what are your plans?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mobile Trends 2020

Met Rudy at Leweb10. What a nice guy. Lives in Barcelona.

Billion Euro Mystery in Hotel de Ville

I thought this year's LeWeb10 was the best fair for a longtime for start-ups and European entrpreneurs. Over 3000 people braved bad weather at the start of December to come to Les Docks in the north of Paris. The main event had the usual highs and lows. But overall they have really polished this into a first-class business event - and in just a few years as well. Forget CES or NAB in Las Vegas. The future belongs more to SxSW and LeWeb.

The highs for me: I thought the keynote by Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Renault S.A. and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd was the kind of leadership the motor trade definitely needs in the coming years. The need for individual mobility is not going away. We need to find more fuel efficient ways of doing this safely. Ghosn launched their new line of electric cars and they gave away the keys to one of their first models and promised delivery by LeWeb11. A great display by Renault/Nissan and a stand full of knowledgeable designers and technicians.

I was also fascinated by Tomoko Namba CEO of DeNA, one of the largest and most profitable mobile and social gaming companies in the world with presence in Japan, China and the United States. Namba founded DeNA in 1999 and entered the mobile market with Mobaoku which became the No.1 mobile auction site in Japan. Under Namba’s leadership, DeNA has thrived through the culmination of various dynamic business models, ultimately seen in the success of Mobage-town, the world’s fastest growing mobile social network service. What shocked me were the numbers: Mobage-town generates US$ 500M annual revenue with 60%-70% profit margin through the sale of virtual avatar related stuff, tie-up ads, banners, and game item billing, achieving an impressive 70% penetration rate among high teens in East Asia. I still find it amazing that so few entrepreneurs follow what's happening in East Asia.

At LeWeb, Namba said their share of the virtual market was now US$1.2 billion. I find that nothing short of astonishing. If only some of that could be used to find new ways of educating that target group rather than just entertaining them. Games together with

And the low-point? Michael Arrington interviewing Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Google. There is just no chemistry between the two and after teasing her with a few jibes, Mike launched into questions which we all knew she couldn't and wouldn't answer. Then she killed him with a smile and just launched in to the mobile demo Google had come to present with a colleague and that was that. I would love to know why Google only supports beta-testing programmes for Google Chrome OS in the US. If you're a University in Paris then it seems you can't sign-up. There was so much I want to learn from a European perspective. This photo from Flickr sums it up.

Finally, back to the mystery. On Wednesday night about 1500 people braved the Paris traffic to attend a reception hosted by the Deputy Mayor of Paris. According to the presentation last year, Paris is spending 1 billion Euro investing in start-ups and innovation in the capital area. So naturally, I was curious as to what they are doing. What happened was desperately disappointing. A crazy chef gave us a Powerpoint presentation from hell, with slides that were right out of Windows 95. Only when he had come to his conclusion did the bar re-open and some of the staff started handing out strange organic fruit mixes and helium balloons. After the initial amusement wore off, I sensed disappointment amongst those who had hoped that Paris would use the opportunity of so many tech-people in town to show off what innovation they were encouraging and financing - perhaps even a call to action like Renault-Nissan had done earlier in the day. No, we were invited to follow them on Twitter. So the mystery of what they are doing with 1 billion Euro of public money remains. Will they tell us - and also involve us? Or will we read about it on Wikileaks at some point in time?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

DR Congo Flashback

More discoveries.

This was a regular edition of Media Network which aired on my birthday in 1999. In this week we included an interview with Quentin Howard, then the boss at the UK Digital radio network Digital One. Interesting to hear how the debate about digital radio seems to have moved forward rather slowly since then - although there are far more receivers on the market than 11 years ago. The UK is now facing a first-mover challenge with so many DAB radios in the market. Countries like Australia that now adopting digital radio are leapfrogging to DAB+ which uses the codec that Quentin believed back then was not robust enough.

The programme also dipped into the archives to hear a profile on broadcasting in Congo compiled by Richard Ginbey. I find those off-air recordings conjure up a completely different world when radios like the one shown here were state of the art. It was the Sony ICF5900W - crystal controlled if I remember rightly.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Radio Christmas Review 1982

I have been fortunate to be able to listen again to a great series of programmes I was involved in. The station was Radio Netherlands, the programme Media Network. I still believe it was an early "FaceBook" bringing together teams of passionate people to discuss what was happening in media and technology at the time.

I picked this recording out of the archives because it has a nice capsule summary of the major media stories from 1982. The highlight was, of course, the Falklands-Malvinas "conflict". But it was also the last programme in which Wim van Amstel appeared as RNW Frequency Manager. It was certainly not the last time he was heard on the programme, though. Again it is striking to hear some of the predictions - and how they were spot on. The call with Arthur Cushen in New Zealand is rather like making contact with the moon. Cannot believe how fast time has flown. At the time of publishing this podcast, I was also sad to hear of the passing of BBC correspondent and broadcaster Brian Hanrahan, who famous line when broadcasting under censorship from the Falklands Fleet was brilliant. Unable to reveal how many British aircraft had been involved in the conflict, he reported that after one sortie he "counted them all out and I counted them all back."

Heartfelt Merry Christmas from Norwich

"Home" for Christmas. Couldn't actually get to this spot in Norwich city centre on this trip because of the snow. It's foggy and -7C outside there today. But wherever you're reading this, have a Happy and Festive time. Looking forward to getting back to work in these challenging times in a few days times. But for now a few days break.

Web Radio

Paris December 2010
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
There is still a lot of confusion out there about the economics of audio over the phone. I was recently in Paris for the great LeWeb10 conference and passed by ads for the Samsung Wave. First phone I have seen with a prominent menu option for webradio. That means you stream the audio via 3G rather than picking it up from FM or AM. I remember Nick Piggot of the project pointing out at IBC that if you were to stream the equivalent of a month's worth of FM/DAB listening by the average Brit, then the download would be about 2GB. That is just not going to scale, nor would I like to rely on a 3G network during a natural disaster. We had a case of that on 9 December when it decided to snow and Paris came to a standstill.

And if you're travelling abroad, as I was, I note that KPN was planning to charge me 5 Euro for a MB of data - so I would have had a monthly bill of 10,000 Euro if I had decided to use my phone as a radio.

I saw colleagues trying to buy local SIM cards, only to discover you needed a French credit card or that it took 48 hrs to activate the data account. In other words, web-radio is great as part of an audio solution. In areas with an uncapped fixed price data rate, it is fine. But the operators are rethinking what they mean by uncapped - I see examples where 250 MB is regarded as the max for fair use.

So it's a bit early to be dumping broadcast networks, although I think AM will go away quite fast. DRM has failed to attract the interest of the receiver manufacturers and the cost per listening on shortwave was decided when oil was 40 dollars a barrel. But FM and DAB+ are an important part of a hybrid mix for audio.

Web Radio on my Android
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tokyo Rose Returns to the Media Network Vintage Vault

One of my latest discoveries in digitizing a box of cassettes was a programme I made with Diana Janssen in 1998. I decided it was time to remake a documentary on Tokyo Rose in the light of new recordings and websites that were springing up. This was before Wikipedia of course. I think it interesting to contrast this story about Tokyo Rose (she was more than one person) with that of American actress Mildred Gillars who broadcast from Berlin to North America. I see that she is the subject of a new book by Richard Lucas called 'Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany'. There are recordings of her in the US Library of Congress. The original programme is also on the vintage vault.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trinity Lighthouse Calling

Another vintage Media Network for you from 1999. In this edition of the show we were messing about in boats. For instance, Light Vessel 18, the former Trinity House lightship was nearly ready for her new role as a floating Radio Station to help celebrate the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's 175th anniversary. Radio Northsea International was planning to be heard over in the area of the English county of Essex and beyond starting on 3rd August 1999 on 190 metres medium wave, that is, 1575 kiloHertz. This revivial was only for the month of August.

This programme also updated the story about Quality Radio 1224 kHz and quashed the rumour that AFN was planning to close down its Frankfurt transmitter on AM. I also like the preview of the Funkausstellung 1999 from the late Bob Tomalski. He was brilliant - still sadly missed. And he was spot on in his predictions. The photo is taken in Lemmer, one of the harbours on the Ijsselmeer lake "

User Generated Content Paris Style?

Useful photo for a slide show next year. But I digress, back to work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fort Radio Remembered

So who remembers the radio stations that operated from the Forts in the North Sea in the 1960's? They were trying to break the monopoly of the BBC but choosing to use abandoned WWII anti-aircraft defenses built in the North Sea rather than the ships used by Radio Veronica and Caroline. The answer is that plenty of people still remember those broadcast pioneers, as I discovered at the in the Casa400 hotel in Amsterdam on November 13th 2010. That lead to a request to dig up this show from August 13th 1998 in which we reviewed a new CD about the Forts, containing interviews from those involved. I see those CDs are still around - judging from the displays of offshore memorabilia. Skip through to 18'42 seconds to hear the bit in the programme below about forts.

This show also included a great opening from Jim Cutler hinting at the crowded shortwave bands. Rocus de Joode was in the frequency coordination meeting in KL. Frederick Noronha submitted a piece about community radio in India. It is a shame that it didn't take off as fast as the commercial FM. The programme ends with the review of the double CD about screaming Lord Sutch and his fort adventures.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Assuring your best confort at Gare du Nord, Paris

I think Google translate has been used to save a few Euro for Thalys. Really makes their marketing look stupid. I see that the database systems with Thalys and Dutch Railways NS don't talk to each other. Thalys can't find Paris-Nord when you book through NS Internationaal. But it can find Paris Nord. I wonder how many times that happens a day and why no-one does anything about it.

Wandering Near Les Invalides

Paris December 2010
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Few hours to kill before my train back to Amsterdam. Discovered a shop seeling great postcards from the days of the Great Exhibition. The world was a simpler but far more dangerous place then. I find it amazing with all the steam engines at the time that there were not more accidents. One of the postcards shows a time when an express train went through the buffers. Otherwise life looks rather pleasant - if you had money.

Radio France Downsizing?

Paris December 2010
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Don't understand why they downsized the logo on top of the Radio France building. The old one is clearly visible.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CBC in MN Vintage Vault

I been digging out old tapes in the loft again to add to the stream of nostalgia on the web. I have always been struck by the connection between radio and transport, especially trains. Many of my friends in broadcasting have an interest in trains - especially steam. So while at a conference in Canada in 1998 I took the tour of the CBC English service in Ottawa, and learned how trains have been important to the start of national radio in that part of North America. It turned out to be important to me too. I went out to the airport to catch the KLM flight back to the Netherlands. I then discovered that there was no plane. It was a bus to Montreal. Where did the bus leave from? The Canadian National railway station opposite my hotel.

This show also contains news on the book series about the great manufacturer of portable radios - Zenith. Why am I doing all this? Because I have a feeling no-one else is keeping these stories of radio's slow evolution to digital.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No DSLR cameras for Christmas Please!

why? Because I'm waiting for the one I want.

I need a new camera to replace my ageing Sony HD cameras that rely on tape. I have done quite a lot of research into the use of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) stills cameras for video work. And for that "cinema" look (shallow field of depth), I have been very tempted.

Until I went to the Panasonic stand at IBC 2010.

Now that the PR hype around the show has finished for this year, time to reflect on what I really saw. I am helped in this video by Christina Fox, who is a brilliant trainer and camera specialist. She runs an excellent site at, where I see she is also changing the line-up of cameras she trains on. If you want a great briefing on video journalism, then Christina is definitely the one to hire. She's run several workshops at IBC and always manages to keep them fresh, practical and relevant.

Looks like this new breed of video cameras will turn up in January 2011. Hope my Sony lasts out until then. Sadly, when it comes to this next step in camera design, Sony seems to have lost it.

Radio's Hybrid Future on the Phone

I cornered Nick Piggot at the excellent Radio Festival in Salford, UK. Because, as a follow-up to his excellent explanation of radio's hybrid future at IBC he was wandering around with a Sony Ericsson phone and a rather super radio app on it. We escaped into a side room of the Lowry building which was slightly quieter for a quick mobile update on Radio DNS.

Note that Nick is using the FM radio built into the phone, so this kind of hybrid future for radio can start today - you don't have to wait for digital networks when and if they come. Of course the full functionality of RadioDNS works with digital radio. But making better use of existing networks also sounds like a good idea.

Make use of what you've already got!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Movidius Moving Fast with 3D Mobile

Movidus is the best news out of Ireland in a long time. I know the place is dominated by the Euro crisis at the moment. But that has nothing to do with these guys who are working on an exciting future for mobile phones. I think 3D has more of a chance on this platform than in the living room.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Google TV - Not quite

This promo demo reveals the rather complicated menu structure of Google TV. Kinda surprised they didn't adopt the lessons learned from Time-Warner Cable experiments in the 90's. What they have made is great if you know what you want to see. But its not a very good way of browsing TV least not yet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Different Angles of Media City UK


These two photos were taken not far from each other at Salford. One is taken from the back of the Imperial War Museum North looking across the canal to the new BBC Media City. The other was taken infront of the Imperial War Museum where you can just see the same BBC tower - behind the Russian tank infront of the IWMN. Great scenario for a piece of fictional drama. Traditionally, those organising a coup have usually headed to the national radio or TV station.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chi Surprise


It is not often you see musicians coming to say thank you to broadcasters, especially pirate broadcasters. Yet, that's exactly what American pianist, singer, & songwriter Chi Coltrane did this afternoon, delaying her trip back to the West Coast to greet participants at the Radiodays meeting in Amsterdam. She gave us a superb impromptu mini-concert and in her on-stage interview with Herbert Visser of 100%NL. she was particularly grateful to offshore broadcaster Radio Noordzee Internationaal. They played a lot of her music in the early 1970's and that triggered producers at TV stations. Interest in her music was reason enough to move to Europe during that period with plenty of gigs in The Netherlands and Germany. Now back in the US, she recently relaunched her music career. The years have been kind to Chi, she's lost nothing of the power in her voice, nor her ability to write memorable songs. Bought her latest CD, Yesterday, Today And Forever, which also entitled me to get the photo and play the fan. Worth every cent.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Influencers and how to find them

As a writer I am often contacted by PR agencies especially around the time of the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam. Why? Because in my sector I influence a lot of people's decisions on what strategy to take or what equipment to purchase. To do so means keeping a healthy distance away from the sales department, not taking advertorials and not being lured to give up my independence.

I have been struck by how naive many public relations agencies are. I get call from someone who thinks I am looking for access to their CEO and that I want to travel 1000 miles to sit in a room for a press conference. Their success is the column inches they get on my blog - which means they are usually disappointed because I'm making more video these days. Luckily, these PR agencies disappear like the autumn mist once the conference is finished.

So it was with some relief that I talked with Jonny Bentwood who is one of the team working on the social media strategy for the global PR agency, Edelman. And guess what - it's all about relationships again. I hope this is the future of their profession. Have a look at tweetlevel​ for more info.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks on Cost Cutting

You need to fast forward this video to the second half, around 50 minutes in. I think he's right that some of the services at BBC World Service have accomplished their mission and the emphasis needs to shift to other areas. But the cuts being imposed are savage - and the first thing to disappear at times like these are creativity. Hope they take time to make considered choices.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Communities where Radio isn't needed

The area of Eastern Congo is of interest to me personally because it seems to be recovering without the intervention of community radio. Their community doesn't need to broadcast a message outside the area - indeed the hills on many sides would probably get in the way. This serves as a reminder to listen to how a community communicates with itself, before deciding whether a radio station would help or hinder.

I've been meaning to post this video for ages. Alexander Petroff looks a little uncomfortable in a suit. That's because I interviewed him outside a lecture theatre in Central London where he'd just been talking to students. Go to their website, and you discover that Alexander has spent most of his time in the last few years realising a dream in Eastern Africa.

The Ruzizi Project is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika, and across the border from Rwanda and Burundi. Home to some of the most fertile land in the world, the Ruzizi Valley was known as, "the rice bowl of Congo" before 8 years of war from 1996 to 2004 destroyed its farms and infrastructure. There is a map here:
Alexander founded an organisation which has helped a local team in Ruzizi build a 10 acre farm that's well on its way to becoming self-sufficient. He points out that the single plot of land never provides enough, but the mega-farms full of machinery don't do much to help the locals. A one-acre plot that is farmed by hand will produce, at the very best, $1-2,000 per year for the farmer. The average African labourer on a mega-farm can expect to make about $1 per day. A farmer working 10 acres, on the other hand, can generate $10-20,000 per year.

Whereas others are just talking about sustainable organic farming, Working Villages just gets on with the job. Alexander is a man with a vision and an economic plan riding on the shoulders of giants, and I wish others in the development community would follow his example.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Colalife - Logistics where there's no postal service

I made this interview with Simon Berry of a little while ago. I just revisited their website and see that the number of Facebook followers has grown substantially since Simon spoke with me and there is a fund-raising and awareness event on December 1st 2010 at the British Film Institute, Belvedere Rd London, United Kingdom.

They have decided to do the first set of trials in Zambia, and their website gives all the details of the simply problem the cola pods solve in rural Africa. I think this is a brilliant idea. I wonder whether rural radio stations might use the Cola network to distribute USB sticks of radio programmes between broadcast centres. Fine for the feature type of programming which doesn't date quickly.

Victor Keegan's Poetry of Location

Had a chance encounter with author, artist and poet Victor Keegan at the Forum Oxford meeting in October 2010. He gave a fascinating talk about his ambition to make a different kind of application for the iPad and iPhone, one that puts poetry into its proper location. He argues that poetry really comes alive when you read it in the location which is being described. I would argue that there's a great opportunity to take this idea even further by adding an option to hear the audio. Victor is also testing the business model for the iPhone apps. Will people pay a modest sum for a collection of great cultural material put into a logical context? I think they probably will. More information at Victor's website. Born storyteller this man. Always enjoyed his articles in the Guardian.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Radio's Hybrid Future

This is the first in a series of short videos made at IBC-2010 to explain Radio's connected future, or perhaps "hybrid" is a better description. In this segment, Nick Piggott explains the bridging function that RadioDNS will provide and the problems it will solve for the global radio industry. I think the great thing about RadioDNS is that the concept is simple, it is already implemented in some countries and it works with any kind of FM or digital radio.

To me it is the equivalent of the decision in 1963 to adopt a 19 kHz pilot tone to switch on the "stereo" indicator on an FM radio. RadioDNS deserves the same instant global hit (and therefore rapid adoption). See for more information.

Boost to the Broadcast Industry - instant mobile sites

I've been following the progress of a Norwegian mobile technology company based in Trondheim, Northern Norway that keeps coming up with ideas that bridge the mobile space with creative broadcasters. have built template-based software which allows journalists and copywriters to build websites that look good on smartphones. The challenge is that most standard websites look great on a big screen - lousy on a small one. Broadcasters are finding that advertisers are interested in mobile sites (more so than banner ads) but they want to see results before they sign anything. That reminds me of the radio ad business where creatives spent hours in the studio writing dummy ads simply to impress the client. Oystein Skiri was at IBC 2010 in Amsterdam and the recent WAN-IFRA conference for editors and publishers in Hamburg. I asked him to explain the problem they have solved.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On


Found this wonderful book at the Imperial War Museum North in Salford. The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information in Britain in 1939 during the beginning of World War II. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Two-and-a-half million copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers.

Tends to apply to too many things at the moment. International long-distance radio broadcasting seems to be collapsing as predicted, but local initatives are not taking off due to bad planning or insuffienct funding. Challenging times indeed.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So what was the problem?


I'm afraid I left the exhibition in Amsterdam Central station completely baffled.

Suppose I suggested to you that your city needed another 9 km of underground. And that the project would start in 2003 and be ready 14 years later, 16 if you really are concerned about the final details. And that the bill would be 3.1 billion Euro, so that you could shave off a massive 15 minutes for a journey to the centre of Amsterdam from Central Station on the North Side. You'd say it was a bonkers scheme would'nt you? Well, that's what they're doing in the centre of Amsterdam. During IBC I have wondered what the hell is taking so long and why the roads are such a dangerous mess around the exhibition cente. There's an exhibition centre on the side of Amsterdam central station with brochures in English and Dutch explaining how they are really working on the 10th Great Wonder of the World. Except the brochures don't say what its costing, when it will be finished and what was the problem they were really trying to solve. The wikipedia entry is actually a more balanced view of what looks like a classic case of engineers on steroids. Imagine the disruption to businesses near this gaping hole.

For half that money they could afford to hire movie stars to give away free coffee on golden trams which would be so enjoyable you'd wish the journey took longer. Or am I missing something here?
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

NS - Dutch railways still doesn't get it


Dutch railways has sold off most of its station kiosks. Some of the new owners have turned them into refreshment stalls. And clearly they want nothing to do with the previous owners. They won't give you change for the machine. They don't know anything or care about the trains outside. And who's fault is that? I'd say Dutch railways for not understanding how the public communicate with each other or what information they need, at what time, in order to get the maximum benefit from the system. The way NS has communicated the use of the new RFID travel cards, especially to tourists, is a classic case of communications failure. 4/10.
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Rare radio moment


Approaching one of those rare moments when you can open the studio microphone and say "It's ten seconds past 10, on 10, 10, 2010." Hope it brings you magic as well.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hamburg - Early Google Street View


In Hamburg at the moment, together wth just over 600 newspaper and magazine editors, for the World Editors' Forum. We're currently in the city hall waiting to be addressed by the city mayor. You need to hear the story before they start serving the local finger food (sausage/fish and salad in a genever glass. It is tradition that speeches in this chamber are only given in German, so we have been handed a translation in English to try and follow along. Looks mercifully short. Above the lecturn are what looks like early Google Seaview paintings. I'm afraid I don't understand the privacy issues that the German's seem to have with Google Streetview. The benefits far outway the negatives.
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World Editors Forum


WEF was originally going to take place in Lebanon, but was cancelled for financial reasons at the last minute (all kinds of security and sponsorship issues). But Hamburg turned out to be a better place for 600 newspaper editors to have a series of very interesting discussions on where publishing, especially news journalism, is heading. I see a widening gap between those titles which embrace and integrate the web and those still holding out. Surprisingly, that seems to be many European countries. The experiments with hyperlocal blogs seem to be the most advanced in Poland and Brazil.
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Discussions in Hamburg


Currently attending the World Editors Forum in the centre of Hamburg, Germany. They have certainly gentrified this part of the city since I was last here a million years ago. More entertainment and clubs now than the seedy sex clubs. In fact the real estate value has doubled in the last few years and St Pauli has become an even more hip place to live. It seems the city of Hamburg made a mistake in the nearby city centre of building lots of shops and offices but no apartments. hence people started looking at other areas of the city where they could live and get entertained.
Whereas Cologne has been the centre for broadcasting, Hamburg has always been the centre of the publishing industry. But the discoverer of radio waves, Hertz, is acknowledged on the side of the TV tower. Seems he was a local lad.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Countdown to Forum Oxford

We are just a few days away from a great non-commercial gathering of leading specialists in the mobile world. When I was at last years event, I asked other people why they came. Wow! I was taken back at the passion that came back to me. Couldn't use all the testimonials - they went on so long.

I have rarely been to a conference where people were so positive about the whole thing (usually people escape from conference sessions to chat in the corridor - not in Oxford). If you're curious as to the magic, then take a look at what several speakers and delegates said would bring them to Oxford on Friday 15th October 2010.

If you'd like to get more info, this is the link . Once again, I have no commercial link with this conference - just think more of this kind of talk needs to happen in the mobile industry and with the broadcasting community.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Forty Miles of Bad Road - Duane Eddy

Amazed to learn this Youtube video at a concert in London a few days ago was shot with a Sony HDR-SR10, with just the on-board stereo mike.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Remembering Radio Berlin International (RBI)

As a young short-wave listener in the early 1970's, I was fascinated with stations I could hear on an old military receiver from the "Communist" East Bloc. They used to send all kinds of (propaganda) magazines in response to reception reports. At one time I sent all kinds of questions off to Radio Berlin International just to see what would happen. I was mentioned all over the place, but especially in the Thank You for Writing letterbox programme hosted by Marjorie Milner. A year after the fall of Berlin wall, I made a documentary for Radio Netherlands Media Network on several East European stations. Kim Andrew Elliott of the Voice of America and I just jumped in my car and we headed for Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and then Berlin. We got fed up of waiting for the official travel proposals at our respective stations would be approved and just took the risk. I am so glad we did. RBI went off the air not long after our visit. Deutsche Welle got RBI when the wall came down, and apart from a few young journalists in English section - and the transmitter site in Nauen, they didn't have much need for the studios on the Nalepastrasse on the banks of the river Spree. That old programme (actually a mash-up of two editions of Media Network) is posted here below.

This September I went back to Berlin and since I was staying in a hotel 20 minutes away from the Nalepastrasse, curiority got the better of me. I recalled that the home of RBI, and its much larger domestic service "Stimme DDR" was housed in former furniture factory. The story was that the original owner had got the building back in the 90's and that it was going back to making furniture.

I took the 21 tram from Frankfurter Tor to Blockdammweg. It is a few minutes walk to Nalepstrasse and the doors of the former broadcast house. To my surprise, the studios are still intact and a small group is trying to turn the place into a sort of new media centre. They have persuaded some orchestras and bands that this is a cheap but effective place to practice and record performances. They have even built a website to offer the services - and its where you need to go if you want to sign-up for one of the tours. At 5 Euro, not really that expensive.

Unfortunately, having signed up for the tour on the same day a few hours before, I discovered that I was too late and in fact no tour was being given that day. But the guard on the gate gave me a brochure and told me that there seemed to be quite a lot of interest in their new found recording business.

The Nalepastrasse is actually broken into two parts, partly because of the security that surrounded the old broadcast centre. To the south of the building, the Nalepastrasse picks up and there the land seems to have been sold off for weekend lodges and allotments. Half way down the Nalepastrasse is a turning to a ferry which takes you across to the other side of the River Spree and the S-bahn back into the centre of Berlin.

I took plenty of photos and video. If there is interest from readers of this blog, I will post the video on my video vault on vimeo.

I also recommend a trip to the Stasi Museum not far away from RBI (15 minute tram ride). There is a museum, usually housed in House Number 1 of the Secret Police headquarters, which turns out to be the archives. While building work is going on in the archive, they museum has moved to Building 21. This was the former general’s canteen, also called “General’s Hill” by the Stasi employees. The museum director points out that not enough of the museum is yet explained in English. But if you ask at the desk, they will give you a photocopied translation of the older guide. I understand German well enough to follow the guide and hear that 90,000 people worked for the Stasi, and another 110,000 were thought to have informed on their neighbours. The East German population declined by three million people throughout its forty-one year history, from 19 million in 1948 to 16 million in 1990; of the 1948 population, some 4 million were deported from the lands east of the Oder-Neisse line. This was primarily a result of emigration — about one quarter of East Germans left the country before the Berlin Wall was completed in 1961, and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates

The East German Stasi were fanatics. Completely bonkers, I'd say. I remember that East German radio station RBI made a big fanfare about the International Youth festival in 1973. These innocent looking trucks outside had cameras, microphones and even a transmitter inside to relay observations back to HQ. They had more tape recorders that RBI.

Spying on the Youth
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks

The museum is open every day and there are excellent guides that explain what really went on in the Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Lichtenberg, where Erich Mielke, the last minister for State Security, had his seat. When the restoration work is complete you can visit the offices which are preserved in their original state. Everything there was made by East German companies like Carl-Zeiss and RFT. But Erich's private chambers had a Philips television in it - I suppose an example of Western luxury or perhaps he was an ardent viewer of RIAS Berlin?

On the second floor of the museum are examples of eavesdropping apparatus used by the East Germans to bug conferences and just spy on other GDR citizens. Cameras built into dustbins, railway sleeps, trees, ties, handbags, as well as extensive ways to bug meeting rooms and send the audio down the phone line. They really were completely mad.

Dark Patterns: User Interfaces Designed to Trick People (Presented at UX Brighton 2010)

I do like this slideshare presentation about the design tricks companies (like Ryanair) do to upsell their products and squeeze more money out of you. I get the impression that GoDaddy is going in a similar direction. Harry Brignull tells a great story.

3D TV Debunked

This year's IBC in Amsterdam was dominated by claims of 3D's breakthrough. If you believed the blurb then you might be persuaded to chuck your 2D camera and film everything in 3D from now on. I can't see the shutter glasses taking on - not only do they cost a fortune, they need a battery and my experience is that the battery is always dead at the wrong moment.

I would wait a bit. Not only is the 3D distribution technology far from being all figured out yet, we're only in the very stages of understanding the production grammar needed to make enthralling 3D. Alice in Wonderland was great in 3D. But a lot of the rest is very poor - infact it gives me a headache. In short, it all not ready for prime time. But that doesn't mean we should be ignoring it in the long-term. I think we need to learn how to use 3D in clever ways. I see it more for the cinema, where the stereographers can control the Z axis during the shooting, whereas live events must be almost impossible to frame correctly.

Watch this interview with David Wood, Deputy Technology at the EBU who does a great summary of where we are at the moment with 3D. Filming at IBC is a challenge because of the limited lighting and the background noise. But I think David's story comes through clearly.

Fake Facebook Posters

Brilliant "fake" vintage ads for Facebook, Twitter and Skype made by a Brazilian production house called Maximidia in Sao Paulo. You can download and print them for your real office wall.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010


There's a special TEDx going on in Geneva today, devoted to Transmedia. The first thing to understand is those who like Transmedia thinks its different from Crossmedia. Frankly I have always interpreted Crossmedia to be this. That's where an immersive story is told through across various platforms, which could be web, phone, TV, or radio. Anything else is merely cross-platform story-telling. But OK, we're stuck with the term.

I do love the You Suck at Transmedia website. Because at the moment, there are not many good examples. And the problem is that good transmedia productions don't lend themselves very well to repeats. The Truth About Marika is a good example. So they end up being relatively expensive. But the Marika project was brilliant  at the time. I am surprised that the company that made it doesn't understand how to get the aspect ratio right on Youtube. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

IBC-2010 in 10 seconds

Briefing clients this week on the outcome of the 2010 IBC in Amsterdam.

Who's Hot: Panasonic, Netgem, Canon (not their DSLR's though -their new 105), Nautel, Autodesk, Vizrt, NHK's Super Hivision (although NHK has enormous difficulty explaining the context of what they are doing).

Biggest disappointment: Sony - why did they bother to come back to IBC? Lack-lustre stand and very traditional workflows.

Biggest Flop: 3D. Would you make a documentary in 3D or Super Hivision? The latter. There are incompatible glasses (3 types) and the demos are with the wrong material. 3D is just a nich subset of HD. Don't waste your money on a new TV.

What needs to change?: I really wonder about the future of the IBC conference. Who has time when the exhibition is so big? All the training /presentations now happen on the floor. The IBC Conference isn't accessible online unless you pay a ridiculous sum - so we will let that one pass. Its also very Anglophile and, whilst it attracts the technical operations people, it has consistently failed to attract creatives.

And for goodness sake stop handing out awards for EVERYTHING. It's devalued the whole point. IBC shouldn't be dishing out awards to anyone. That should be left to member organisations.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

IBC 2010 Parking Nightmare

Words fail me. Amsterdam hosts the largest broadcast exhibition in Europe and can't be bothered to put traffic cops on the A10 exits. Since no-one in Holland has heard of a box-junction (don't enter unless your exit is clear), the result is a 30 minute chaotic wait to enter a car-park. Makes driving in Southern Europe look like paradise. Of course, they won't do anything until someone gets killed. RAI puts traffic people on their own property who stand around and smoke with apparently nothing to do, while it is sheer bedlum 200 metres away. Crazy. RAI is getting arrogant again.

Now we know that the North-South metro line that was started in 2003 won't be ready until 2017 at the earliest, Amsterdam needs to get its act together in the meantime.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Data Dependant Journalism - Churnalism Grows

One of the themes at Lift-Fing, the French innovation conference this year in Marseilles was public data. They examined how some cities like Rennes and Helsinki seem to be pulling ahead in their use of open data and crowd sourcing for the benefit of citizens - and to cut costs by breaking down government silos.

This segment recorded during the conference is a sort of executive summary of the conclusions from the speakers.

  • Michael Cross : one of the founders of the Free Data campaign for public access in the UK.
  • Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Anders has done a lot of work into the reliability of the "wisdom of the crowds".
  • Jarmo Eskelinen runs the Forum Virium Helsinki, doing some brilliant coordination work up there in the North.

This video was made as a briefing to those interested in the open data movement, so goes into a lot more detail than if it were made for a general audience. I recommend watching the presentations as they become available here.

The rise of FabLab

Born in MIT and Northern Norway, the Fab Lab concept seems to be blossoming. I think it works because you can clearly make just about anything in a Fablab and what happens is relevant to local circumstances. At school one ofe the reasons for not liking Physics was that all the experiments had been worked out by others, and I couldn't see the practical application of what was being taught. These public access science labs work the other way round - you share an idea and they look to see what's possible. It is a great place to prototype. Check and this list for one of the nearly 50 labs near you. Ton Zijlstra, also in this video, blogs in English about Fablabs at

Thanks too to Fing for featuring this at their conference in Marseilles this year Videos of the presentations from this years' conference are here

Sunday, September 05, 2010

BBC - Homepage Fail

BBC - Homepage

Entire BBC home page site down at the moment. iPlayer also stopped for me although others are reporting its back now. Did someone try to download the Internet again? And Twitter has fail whales... Maybe the servers are in Christchurch, where no-one would look for them.

Correction. BBC Wales is not a fail Whale. Update: Network problem in London apparently solved now at 1620 UTC.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Al Jazeera revamps web presence

Al Jazeera has certainly done a good job of revamping their website. Long overdue, but a major improvement now in both style and ease of navigation. Liked the item on United Breaks Guitars - second item in the programme.

On closer examination I find it strange that some of their "how to watch us" stuff is buried in about us and this is divorced from the page about watching AJE live. I think it may be time to time dump those pay for networks. I cannot believe they are a profit centre. And the quality is awful. The date on this page is misleading. The news is fresh. Its the page design that is a year old.

Is Apple's Ping a Haven for Spammers?

Is Apple's Ping a Haven for Spammers?

Ping? Tried it, got rid of it. Don't need another spam-ridden social network. It means that unless you get the settings right, you can't surprise a friend (they can see what you purchased) and I think it will go the way of My Space...too restrictive.

IFA2010 The Total Philips Stand Tour

Philips flounders on with some useful products (like the headphones) but uncoordinated marketing. It would appear that they don't trust the couple of thousand tech reporters wandering around Berlin's IFA fair at the moment and so decided to make their own stand tour. This piece can't decide whether it is a piece of television news or a sales presentation to shop owners. The opening text is classic PR and I creased up when the airfryer demo guy does a "Hi Derek" at 1'56. Looking at the viewing figures, this YouTube channel must have some of the highest costs per viewer on the planet.

Philips haven't learned from Apple keynotes, in that when you announce something new like Airfryer at the world's largest consumer fair, it is a good idea that your online store has heard about it and has some clue as to a delivery date (pre-orders?). About time they shortened their company tag line to Simplicity. I always hear people confuse their current one with Sense and Sensibility. Sense doesn't make much sense any more.

SIRI Sirius XM Radio Inc. still the dog in radio

SIRI Sirius XM Radio Inc. stock quote price shares XNAS – Morningstar

I was asked again the other day what I thought of the future of satellite radio. In Europe, I believe its a non starter with such a splintered telecoms market and no tradition in pay-radio. We're also too far North for direct line of sight. As far as North America is concerned, I still think this advice about Sirius is spot on. Satellite radio in the US is not a good investment. With all the developments with iPad, I doubt if we will see a next generation of these satellites. Sirius is clever at hyping, but to say they are swinging into profit is being very optimistic.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jim on Camera

Jim Cutler's voice must be familiar to anyone who listens to Leo Laporte's network, but also recalls Media Network in the 1990's. Jim did all the fun-parody trailers on the show. There was also the time when our recording session with him was broadcast on the Astra satellite without us knowing - until a listener sent us a CD of the session a couple of months later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review Fotomagico - Making Still Sequences in Moments

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I must confess my software discovery of the month is the new version of Fotomagico 3.5. My records show that I have looked at previous versions, before I realised its Mac only and rejected it. Now that I have switched all my video production from PC to Mac, I have been re-assessing what I required as a basic set. I soon discovered that I needed Final Cut Pro and that time spent with Final Cut Express and iMovie was both a waste of time as well as frustrating.
Now a similar thing is happening when it comes to the production of slideshows. I use slideshows both as a warming up/countdown to keynotes – as well as for trailers to articles I have written. Stills have the ability to create mystique that is totally different to video. Besides, I have 15,000 photos that I have never printed on paper, yet want to share. Correction, I want to share them with music, as a performance or a narrative. I always felt the Photo CD failed because it had no soundtrack.

Radio with Pictures

I am also going to experiment with illustrating some radio shows, now that screens are starting to appear on some of the digital radios in the UK. I have a situation where I have done a radio documentary about a visit to Radio Prague 20 years ago. I have been back several times to Czech radio and taken pictures to show what’s changed. I found that by adding a slideshow to the audio I gave an enhanced experience, with the captions adding text without disturbing the original narration. You can’t do this quickly without the sort of cross media timeline that Fotomagico provides. Still experimenting, but the sharp pictures make the audio into a theatre experience.

Getting it done fast – building a workflow

Originally I thought iPhoto was the simple solution to making a slide show for a backdrop for a conference and awards ceremony. It worked, sort of, but the music didn’t synchronise and I was forced to use standard fades and cross-overs. I played with Apple Keynote, which was great until the sequence got out of step with the music. I was fiddling with the order as the audience was taking their seats. Been there once. Believe me, never again.

So a month ago it was time to look for something else – and that’s when Fotomagico popped up with its version 3.5. I have to say immediately that there are two versions, home and professional. The price difference is significant  25,00 Euro for the home version in Europe, 140 Euro for the Pro. You can compare the two versions on this page. But I have to say the features on the Pro version turn it into very professional cross-media editor and that was the version I am reviewing here.

I need the multiple (3) audio tracks for different language versions. There’s a teleprompter and voiceover function on the Pro, and I like to be able to break the presentation into chapters. But the home version has a lot of features too and there seems to be no difference in the quality for rendering to most platforms. Some options, like the standalone player, only work with the Pro Version. That said, this is a reasonable price for something that saves so much time which-ever version you choose. People in the US are luckier because the prices are slightly cheaper, 29 and 149 dollars respectively. But that's the case with most software.

What I do in a live situation

When I am live on stage, I simply switch to the live presentation format which means there is no waiting for rendering. I slot in a few photos I have taken of the audience coming into the theatre, drop them into pre-planned parts of the sequence, and off it goes. The impact of seeing photos a few minutes old already folded into a professional presentation adds a surprise element which works every time. I couldn’t do it as easily in other programs without worrying about messing things up. I am using JPEGs for this. You can experiment with RAW files but frankly there is not much point for projection. It just slows things down if you have a lot of transitions.

The program warns there will be quite large loss of quality if you export the slides to YouTube, a DVD, to an iPhone, AppleTv or an iPad. But if you’re using a HD-TV or want to share the slides with PC users you will have to put up with some loss in fidelity. But don’t forget the screen size on the iPhone is smaller and frankly I wasn’t too worried. It looked fine. The Pro version allows you to export to a special stand-alone player that does retain the original quality. The presentation will then play on other Macs but not on the PC platform.

Ease of use

Fotomagico is very intuitive, as its name implies. I played with it for a while, watched the demo and then read the manual to see what tips and tricks I’d missed. I like the fact that you have a lot of the 3D effects you get in Keynote, but these are much easier to combine with titles and sync to the music or narration. I found I could use the program without having to have others open – Fotomagico dips into iTunes, Garageband, iPhoto, folders without you having to have the respective programs open. The only point I would like to see in a future version is the ability to sort or filter some of the iTunes folders from within Fotomagico. So I prepare my soundtracks into to special playlist in iTunes and then open that folder in Fotomagico. You can preview tracks in a little player in Fotomagico though.

You can produce a stills sequence much faster in Fotomagico than fiddling around with the motion control in Final Cut Pro. Basically you make the sequence in Fotomagico and this is rendered dynamically into FCP. You really notice the speed saving when you make a mistake (let’s say a spelling mistake in a title) and the fix only takes a matter of seconds. Note that these links allow quick export of the video only. You lay the audio track in Final Cut Pro.


It works. I’m hooked and can recommend both the software and support service. But don’t take my word for it. Experiment with the trial version by requesting a temporary licence from