Sunday, January 23, 2011

Forget Web Portals in Africa. Radio Stations should go straight to Mobile

I'm currently helping radio stations rethink their business model. It is clear that partnerships with mobile companies is the way forward. Just what kind of partnerships depends on which country.

Professor Harry Dugmore, has the chair for Mobile and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. In this chat he looks at the power of radio and discusses why it is so important that there is plurality of voice in society. Harry has thoughts on where those journalists will come from.

He also builds a strong case for why we need public media to maintain the checks and balances on governments and financial institutions. Especially now.

Some people have asked me whether these videos are meant to be mini television documentaries. The answer is no. I think mainstream television is obsessed by the visuals. I am simply using videos to share what I think are great ideas.

Boosting those online Radio figures

At the moment, only 2% of radio listening in the UK is through the PC using software like the BBC iPlayer. This is despite the fact that 75% of UK households have some sort of broadband - certainly broad enough to listen to audio.

Michael Hill leads a cross-industry group that is working on a way to make radio easier to access via the PC platform. Its also going to be important for putting next generation radio players onto the PS3, XBox, and the tablets. In this interview, made at the recent Radio Festival in Salford, UK, I asked Michael Hill what the Radioplayer will mean to all radio stations in the UK (including community and student stations). The good news is that everyone is involved. is the place to watch for the launch and also to get details of how the radio player design has been thought through.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

De WikiLeaks code (dutch subtitles)

Saw another version from SVT in Sweden just after Christmas. This version is slightly different but (apart from the Dutch hacker interview) its in English. The bulk of the material was made by Icelandic Television RUV based in Reykjavik. Worth watching.

Ideas that failed miserably

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Just paged back through Flickr looking for examples of ideas that failed almost before they started. Like the concept that you would fill your iPod full of legal music at the airport. Except that the service at Schiphol airport in 2006 didn't work with an iPod.

Dutch Telecom company KPN stops running the phone box


I see in the on-line newspaper I'm reading that KPN is going to stop supporting public phone boxes, now that the penetration of mobile phones has reached such a high level in the Netherlands. In some areas, like shopping centres, public phones will still be available. They will either be new ones plastered with advertisements, or one of the 250 existing ones that a company called RBL Telecom is going to take over from KPN. The remaining 750 currently run by KPN will be scrapped.

Three years ago the legal obligation for KPN to provide public callboxes (1 per five thousand inhabitants) was scrapped. Back in 2008, there were then 4000 phone boxes in the Netherlands, of which 1800 were not making enough money to make it worthwhile to maintain. The peak of 20,000 boxes was reached around the year 2000. I guess they have been recycled by now.

I have been taking photos of phone boxes for years, anticipating their demise. May be I can use them on a panel game at some point in the future. I find the boxes illustrated here to be the most interesting. Most people immediately say this shot was made in London. In fact, it is down-town Buenos Aires. The British built a lot of the communications infrastructure in South America. And so the phone boxes (and the letter boxes) too make use of a very imperial looking design.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cridland Keynote on Radio"s Future


Interested to see James Cridland's keynote at the NPOX Radio Lab today. It was held for radio managers in the public broadcast sector. The music networks like Radio 2 and Radio 3 are making serious and constructive use of emerging media platforms. But the news and current affairs network Radio 1 is still divided having many different websites connected by a logo. James pointed out that the broadcasters can learn a lot by adapting the ideas seen in the US at NPR and ABC Queensland.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Freedom Fone update

I have a lot of respect for the pioneering work being done by freedom fone, a software project that is based in Zimbabwe and has blossomed despite the very serious media situation inside the country. I thought it was a sort of tapeless answering machine at first. I have since played with the free software and believe it has immediate application for radio stations, especially in Africa when radio in local languages is so important for keeping societies together. I caught up with the Head of Technology for Freedom Fone, Brenda Burrell, a few weeks ago and asked her to outline how she wants people to use the ideas and technologies in other parts of the world. More info at Also check out the main site. The original video is also still up for comparison.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Impressed with progress at the iHub, Kenya

In March 2010 I was passing through Nairobi and got a chance to see the new iHub being built on the top floor of a building on the Western side of the city. Now, almost a year later, the building is buzzing with activity and they seem to putting into practice what they said they were going to do. This video is a short briefing on what's happening in 2011 from co-founder Juliana Rotich. The innovation hub has become a model that others in East Africa (and I would argue Europe) needs to follow. I like the fact that they select at the door to avoid time wasters, but also spot rising talent and nurture it. That means they keep watching and listening, assuming that the next Ushahidi success might be the next person who knocks at the door. Check out the site for yourself.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Crowdfunding: Lessons learned down under

There have just been major cutbacks to the arts, overseas development aid and grants to innovative workshops in the Netherlands. One of the victims was Digital Pioneers, ( although you could argue that after 18 rounds of financing, the pioneering aspect was getting a difficult sell. What surprised me was that the last session went out with a whimper, whereas the clue to one path for the future was actually on stage. Look at this short video about the Crowdfunding start-up in Australia called Fundbreak and explore the projects that that been more than 100 percent funded by the public. I'm impressed that these creative people have gone through the process of making their pitch clear, concise and credible. Check out . Would be interested to hear of other similar ventures supporting creative filmmakers in this way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

BBC Mobile Player in UK

BBC Mobile Player
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Interesting that the BBC mobile screens are much easier to follow than if you access them from outside the UK. I like the fact that they often position podcasts at the top of the list. Designed to attract listeners who suddenly suffer from boredom (missed a train connection for instance).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ipad for Presenters

It is inspiring to see what's happening in live event studios and the type of technology that is now being put in front of the presenter. During live sports or elections, you now see many anchors standing up and wandering around between tables of guests. So is there a need for them to be in control of the graphics or video sequences by tapping an iPad with a special app on it? You be the judge. I actually would find it useful as an autocue or memory jogger during live stand-ups. Beats a notepad.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wordlens on a smart phone

Not sure I'd want to translate a thesis this way. But for out and about in a foreign country, it could be a lifesaver. On a holiday, but also for international rescue forces coming to help out after a natural disaster. Only for the iPhone at the moment and you have to buy before you try (that's a problem in the iPhone app store). Can't wait to see it on other platforms and in other languages.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Snag-It, Camtasia and Lecturers

At the recent Leweb conference in Paris, I bumped into two people who know more than most about capturing conversations. Many colleges and universities spend a fortune providing lectures to under a hundred students at any one time. Even some of the better learning institutions have not found a way to capture that knowledge on video so that it can not only be viewed again later but also used for distance learning. I'm surprised this isn't being given a higher priority. Techsmith certainly have worked out a lot of answers, focussing on keeping capture as simple as possible. Yes you can capture a screen with a standard keyboard action. But you can't manipulate it as easily without SnagIt. Cheap program that's saved me hours making Powerpoints or Keynotes.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Kodak and Social Media Marketing

I have been impressed about how Eastman Kodak has embraced social media - and listened to its public of camera users. It has done a much better job than the likes of Sony, Canon and Nikon. And this from a former chemical company! I have been using the Kodak Zi8 for simple reporting work - and it turns out very acceptable video, especially if you add an external lavalier microphone. I'd put it well ahead of the Flip camera just because of the sound quality. In Paris at Leweb10 I saw the camera that's coming next. And do download their tips for social media.

Straker, conversations about the challenge of translations

In the closing stages of Leweb10, I had one of my most interesting conversations of the event. Its with an Irish start-up founded by a New Zealander and an Australian. These guys at Straker are well ahead of others in tackling the cost of translation - and if you see how much the EU spends on translating stuff which is never read, you can see they are on to a winner. David explained in some detail their approach which involves mixing machine translation with human intervention. He shares why crowd-sourcing a translation doesn't work and the challenges they have faced and solved. If you're working on localising a site in Europe, you should take a few minutes of your time to get some great insight. These guys really do know what they're doing.

Clipping the web - great tools for researchers

I have no problem stumbling upon all kinds of interesting material, but Googling your bookmarks history is not the best way finding documents, videos and web pages for a second time. As part of my quest to find relevant applications for editors and researchers, I've been comparing various clipping services. There are a few out there, but only a couple that seem to be actively developing new features. I've been playing with Memonics after a chance encounter with Keren Eldad at LeWeb10. I am very impressed. I think its better than Evernote. I see that Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung (NZZ) is also experimenting with it, though I don't think they really explain the potential of the service very well. Memonics really starts saving you time when you're able find the stats you were looking for without resorting to a search engine. Hope they prosper. Complements nicely the features I see in

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Anti Frustration Software -Soluto

I first saw this Israeli software mentioned by Robert Scoble and installed it to test it out. It's simply brilliant if you're a Windows 7 user and trying to work out what is causing your PC to slow down over time. Apparently there is more to come in a matter of weeks time. Still in glorious beta. The press room at LeWeb had this strange blue spotlight beaming in to the interview area.

Radio and the cars of the future

Leweb10 continues to surprise, becoming a sort of SxSW for European entrepreneurs. At the one just held in Paris, Renault Nissan gave away the keys to one of its new electric city vehicles, the Twizy. Delivery will be at LeWeb11 in Paris in December 2011. Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn suggested that there will always be a market for personal mobility. The car industry needs to adapt to maintain its position as the most desirable object for most people. That means responding to concerns about energy - but also opening up the car as a platform for application developers rather like the iPhone and Android. Hopefully the personal mobility industry, worth 2 trillion dollars we're told, will be able to agree on some open standards to avoid the developer nightmares we've seen in the mobile handset space. Sit back and watch the demo of the first in a series of new Renault electric cars. And then join me in working out what radio needs to do to be part of the application boom that is coming to in-car entertainment. Radio needs to remain part of personal mobility as the car radio disappears as a discrete device.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Paper.Li - A daily Facebook Newspaper

Launched in Spring 2010, Paper.Li (the Li is for Lichtenstein) turns your Facebook or Twitter feeds into a daily newspaper. Currently the service is being used in over 200 countries, with the main markets being the US, UK, The Netherlands and Japan. The site currently has software to support automated compilation in English, German, Spanish and French and there are plans for Dutch, Japanese and Mandarin. They have around 130,000 daily "newspapers" and the system is growing at a rate of 1000 a day. It will be curious to see how the public copes with this sudden explosion in on-line publications. I think the idea is great - although I am being very selective on the number of "subscriptions" I sign-up for. Even though they are free, they do take up valuable attention time. So keep to measured doses and follow people with important things to share. Frankly, I find the conversations are becoming stronger on Facebook - and that's reflected in my preference for for Facebook.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Blonde Pitches Viber

Ayelet is a great marketeer and always seems to find the coolest companies to work with. At Leweb10 she had an app to rival skype and fring. No wonder it is so popular. Sound quality is great. I have no connection - just a fan of good pitches that work.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

PearlTrees - The next Delicious

PearlTrees Presentation
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks

I understand the rumours are still quite strong that Yahoo wants to get rid of the collaborative bookmarking tool Delicious. Frankly, after experimenting with it in about 2005, I stopped using it. I had problems with plug-ins on various browsers. It had a cutsy URL in those days which I couldn't remember. It probably wasn't the Delicious extension that kept crashing my browser, but when I got rid of a lot of them, out it went too.

Since then I have been looking for three things:

- a method to keep and sort stuff I find on the web in a logical way, especially related videos.

- a method to share those collections with others and share bits of it with others who subscribe to an alert service I run for clients.

- a method to dynamically display the results, so that any updates are also reflected. That's the problem with blogs. Once you have snagged a copy of an Excel sheet or graph and put it into a blog, it's frozen.

I stumbled upon what could be the answer at a bloggers dinner organised in Paris by a French start-up called You first need to sign-up and sign-in, set up a free account and a simple profile. Then install extensions into your favorite browsers. Then, as you surf the web, you can bookmark your discoveries and send the links automatically to Pearltrees. Each website is a pearl and each pearl can be dragged and dropped into what I call an "interest tree". It's more like a virtual biscuit tin when you can store goodies, but also make very clear connections between the pearls rather like Mindmapping.

What struck me was the clever way in which you can then share this with other Pearltrees users. If someone else is working on a dossier about "community radio stations in Ghana", I can invite that person to collaborate on a document. That person does have the rights to change (and potentially destroy) the document rather like Wikipedia. But because you have only granted them access to that bit of your network, it is a great way to collaborate and build trust. I've found quite a few journalists and entrepreneurs working with Pearltrees - basically taking it for a ride to see what it can do.

You can also publish your trees and then embed them into a blog. Whenever you go to that entry, the website grabs the latest version of the pearltree.

Downsides? Not many. But you need to remember that what you're storing are links, not actual content. So if someone posts something like a video or a document which you capture as a pearl, it will disappear if that document/video ever goes off line. For that reason I am experimenting with downloading documents to my dropbox and then posting stuff from there.

Pearltrees was born at LeWeb2009. They have already come a long way since. It's a small team of 12 people working in Paris, but I got the impression its a tight-run ship and a brillian team of developers. I am expecting great things...(reposting now I finished the video).

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Clever Recruitment Poster Norwich Airport

With a four hour delay at Norwich airport waiting for an incoming KLM Cityhopper (local fog), had plenty of time to contemplate this poster in the waiting room.

Sun above the clouds

Sun above the clouds
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
After a four hour delay at Norwich airport waiting for fog to clear (so the incoming plane can land) the flight itself is smooth as silk - and a rare chance to see the sun. That cloud in the middle reminds me of a scone. Refreshments on board KLM Cityhopper don't stretch that far though.

Landing at Schiphol airport

Surprised to see so much light pollution from the greenhouses as we come into land at Schiphol airport this afternoon. Bearing in mind the cost of energy, I would have thought building some sort of internal reflector would have paid dividends on the electricity bills. Apparently not because the landscape is still littered with these beacons.