2013 was a pretty terrible year news wise in the UK. Brooker made the best of it. Not the funniest - but there wasn't much to laugh at.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
This presentation is an eye-opener for many of us. The extent of the surveillance techniques, to the point of developing back-doors on disk drive firmware or being able to switch on webcams remotely without the user knowing its active. And it is not just the NSA of course.
Appelbaum calls out several companies like Apple, Dell, to explain their position. Have they worked with the NSA to supply these backdoors or are they "victims". I'm also intrigued by the references to CNN.com. But closer analysis of the speech is troubling, especially the people tend to forget that the development TOR system that Appelbaum refers to was partially funded by a grant from US International Broadcasting body, the BBG. This from the Guardian.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency whose mission is to "inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy" through networks such as Voice of America, also supported 's development until October 2012 to ensure that people in countries such as Iran and China could access BBG content. Tor continues to receive federal funds through Radio Free Asia, which is funded by a federal grant from BBG.
If European media organisations are really serious about helping their colleagues at home and abroad, then 2014 will be the year they make it so much easier for independent journalists to do something about staying safe. We need safer tools that are easier to use. The tools from organisations such as Tactical Tech are still too much focused on the tech community.
Monday, December 30, 2013
This early edition of Media Network included the story of how a TV show in the Netherlands blocked the phone lines when it asked for viewer response, we review the book Border Radio about the high power stations from across the US-Mexican border and (the late) David Monson previews the Antwerp EDXC Convention which he organised in Belgium. Actually, that was one of the most interesting European DX Council meetings I ever went to. David was incredibly chaotic, creative and an acomplished musician. He worked for several years hosting the programme Brussels Calling on BRT (not VRT) in Belgium. He should have had a producer! Thanks to Jinterwas for the photo os Antwerp Zoo. Check out more on Flickr.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
I confess I don't buy all that many books any more. I've become more comfortable with screens and even more comfortable to listening to podcasts and audio books. I use a lot of bookmarks so I can find interesting quotes again.
My favourite book of 2013 for inspiration was Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff. It woke me up to the fact that some aspects of digital storytelling are seriously broken and how in Western Europe we have become obsessed with "now". I've seen it so often in European media, especially the rolling news channels. Nothing is ever finished. Few stories are explored in depth. Some stories are so overblown as to be ridiculous (networks simply dumping everything they already had on the shelf). And I realize now that what I thought were cool new formats are really examples of Narrative Collapse. Rushkoff went on a discussion tour shortly after releasing the book in the spring of 2013. Although there are overlaps in the beginning of each interview, I found the examples given later in the conversations above to be very interesting indeed, actually they should have been in the book. I'm already using the points Douglas raises in rethinking how I help build stronger company narratives and documentary scripts. The following is taken from Rushkoff's interview with The Verge. Bit disappointed in the narrator on audible. He reads with a rather monotonous repetitive style.
Friday, December 27, 2013
The sound is poor on these closing remarks, but Stephanie Hay points out that broadcasters were testing out programme formats on selected target groups in the 1960's. That's how they discovered when children were actually learning from shows like Sesame Street (it was during the interaction between humans and the puppets.)
So how can start ups deal with the challenges of exponential growth? Hyper-growth in fact is extremely painful. Enjoyed this presentation from Ari Gesher of Palantir Technologies.
The first Media Network programme was aired a few days after Radio Luxembourg's English service signed off from the high-power medium-wave channel of 1440 kHz, better known as the Great 208 (208 metres). The farewell show went on well into the night and contained some great stories of the English service in Luxy. The mediumwave transmitter in Marnbach is still there - I passed by on a trip to Luxembourg in the car a few years back. RTL German and China Radio International have used it since.
In 1995, Radio Netherlands signed a deal with RTL Radio Luxembourg to use the great 208 metres for a few hours each night for it's English language broadcast. We combined that with a visit to the station and made the following documentary. This was one of the first dual presentations we tried with co-host Diana Janssen. Interesting old recordings of RTL which I haven't heard elsewhere in a long time. The picture of the transmitter site at Marnach is shown above. That was were the English transmissions came from.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
From the Media Network radio archive: The photo above shows the BBC Czech service which I visited on one of my many trips to Prague long after this edition of Media Network was made. This was almost two years after the Velvet revoltion and changes were afoot at Radio Prague as well as the Czech radio domestic service. We also talk to Bob Horvitz, formerly of ANARC, now resident in Prague.
Check out this episode!
Been curating a new batch of Media Network shows, the programme I produced and hosted on Radio Netherlands from 1980-2000. This was Media Network edition 749. And this time we review the Sony ICFSW40 and the Grundig Yacht Boy 360. We looked at the subject of diversity in the Dutch media. Arthur Cushen has the Pacific media news and Mike Bird has the propagation outlook.
Check out this episode!
It's getting cold. And while sorting through some old vintage recordings of Media Network I found an edition recorded on January 16th 1991 when we had a visit from a colleague at Radio Vilnius. They used to have a haunting melody at the start and end of each broadcast. Hearing it again, I must admit I can't get it out of my brain again. It's mid way through this programme. You've been warned.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
The UK Guardian quotes excerpts from the brief message to be aired on the network at 1615 GMT. I wonder what the audience figures will be? It is already available on demand on the Channel 4 website, though strangely you are asked to register to watch it (I would have waived the registration in this case. I feel what he has to share is far more important that what's coming out of Buckingham Palace. At 1'43 seconds, Snowden's message is certainly to the point.
I think we all deserve an informed debate on what NSA and other monitoring services were actually doing. My concern is that although the spotlight is on the NSA at the moment, I'm none the wiser what's happening here on the European continent.
I thought the passing remarks from former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt a few days ago were poignant.
To this day, Schmidt remains dubious about the value of the security services. With anger in Germany at the alleged US surveillance of Angela Merkel's mobile phone calls, Schmidt says he never had any confidence in the spooks. "I was in government for 13 years and in that time only once met the head of the German security services, and that was because he was an old friend. Otherwise, I carefully avoided having anything to do with these people. They are unavoidable but not really necessary."
Some are taking a standI don't get many paper Christmas cards any more. But I did get a brilliant one from my Internet provider XS4ALL. It says "What are you doing over the Festive Season? - We don't want to know".
The reverse side of the card explains that XS4ALL rejects all requests for customer details, unless they are forced to. And those cases are published in their Transparency Report. I didn't pick my Internet provider because it was the cheapest. I chose them because it appears to be doing the most to protect my interests.
I believe the discussion about privacy will be one of the biggest issues next year. And rather than sitting idly by, I think this is a golden opportunity for public media to show they have the interests of the citizens at heart by being a catalyst for the discussion. Such a discussion is not going to happen in Russia or China. European countries with vision could see this as a golden opportunity to attract business away from US cloud providers by offering trusted alternatives without a back door. The public media are quick to respond with special programming when there is a natural disaster. But where are they when there is a public crisis of confidence? And look at the fiasco when US commercial media have a go - the CBS 60 minutes edition on the NSA must go down in history as the worst piece of investigative reporting in decades. It reminds me of the opening to Woody Allen's film Bananas.
I expected more NSA Christmas parodies, like this one below. Seen any yourself, then put them in the comments.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013
What amazed me is that people seem not to notice. New York City-filmmaker Nicolas Doldinger used a Phantom quadcopter for this sequence. The camera in his short "First Flight of the Phantom" soars over New York City showing the power of the gimble to stabilize the shots, taking in Central Park, various city streets, Union Square, and Grand Central Station.
Interesting to compare Mark Little's Blog explaining the acquisition of the Dublin based "social news" agency with the official News Corporation press release.
I can understand Storyful's delight in being acquired for 25 million dollars. I'm not sure I understand why Newscorp needs to acquire the news agency in order to "expand Storyful’s video products and services for newsrooms, advertising agencies and brands. News Corp will also utilize Storyful’s tools to help drive engagement and revenue across News Corp’s businesses". Sounds rather muddled to me.
News Corp still has a long way to go to rebuild the public trust after the UK phone hacking scandal. So, from the outside looking in, it is rather early for acquisitions unless they are purely interested in absorbing the technology into properties like the Wall Street Journal.
I note on the website that Storyful's client list includes the BBC and Australia's ABC. Both have stormy relationships with NewsCorp. I guess they will quickly look for alternatives.
So did Newcorp buy the technology or the brains?
Sunday, December 22, 2013
For some reason, Google's Chrome browser has blocked access to the official Russian news agency RIA. This is the agency that has just absorbed the Voice of Russia (the successor to Radio Moscow). VOR site still accessible. The explanation given is that the site has been compromised by Malware. Not sure if that's true or whether something else has triggered Chrome. Thanks to a tip from the latest edition of the NoAgendaShow, definitely the best podcast in the universe.
Update: 23/12. Seems to be fixed this morning.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Interesting working with some European startup teams who believe that the first thing their new company needs is an article in Techcrunch, TNW, The Verge, or another on-line tech-blog. And they get annoyed when you explain that's a haphazard approach fraught with danger. "But you're the media guy. Get us some coverage. We need it to get the investors in".
They often get angry when I say it is too soon. And that investors are not reading PR spin in order to make an investment decision. They have their own networks to spot talent. Techblogs depend on traffic for their survival. Writers have to churn out articles for very little reward.
So bear in mind, before you think of issuing a press release, you usually only get one chance to share your story. And to be memorable you need to show that your brilliant solution/service has already got traction. Too many companies look for applause far too soon - hoping that a spin doctor will turn it into an article that gets a million views.
As others have found out the hard way, once your article has been written up, journalists are unlikely to come back for a follow-up unless there has been a major development. And once you've been in Techcrunch, rival magazines regard you as old news. Your launch party - indeed your very existence on the planet, however strong your team, is not a story!
The first thing any startup needs is a strong market-tested prototype, followed by an engaging company narrative. All that comes well after the beta-launch and customer development. In other words, sharing your story is a strategic choice. Don't take my word for it. Steve Blank has been saying this since 2008!
So how would you promote a new phone with a wooden back? NTT Docomo did this in 2011 which must be the most elaborate musical sequence filmed in a long time. Not sure if any of the wooden instruments were really tuned, or it was all put in later in post. I understand from This Week In Google that Motorola has finally come out with a bamboo back for its Moto X phone. But what's all the fuss about?
Friday, December 20, 2013
Rare that the Beeb allow you to embed their content on your site. Apparently the message is getting through. It is going to be weird seeing the new doctor who I can only associate with his former role in The Thick of It. Youtube is full of F-word mash-ups.
I see the Lytro camera has dropped in price for a few days to UD$199. This isn't a camera for everyone. And if the technology catches on, these cameras will quickly become obsolete. And I would never use it as a primary camera. But if you like the ability of being able to capture now and focus later, it can provide some very creative possibilities. We're now starting to see the results from people who have already played.
There is a lot of information in the "blurred" area of an ordinary camera that gets chucked out because the photographer selects a particular focus point. Here is the founder's thesis describing the technology https://www.lytro.com/downloads/resources/renng-thesis.pdf. He likens "plenoptic" imaging to replacing a retina with an insect-like compound eye, so the eye still has a single lens, it just directs the rays to a compound eye that can focus and shift perspective on a per pixel basis.Photos are interactive (focal plane, depth of field), with special software, but exports to JPG are at only 1080x1080 pixels -- very small or low-res. I wish they were wide angle.
I've been told that Eric Cheng, who was Lytro's former Director of Photography until October 2013 is now doing fun videography with drones, building his own rigs for beautiful HD flights in nature. Very smart guy.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Blackmagic's 4K Production Camera Footage from Brian Hallett on Vimeo.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Brilliant advice from the puppets! Stamp out vertical videos!
The team on MacBreak weekly pointed out the parody of the Apple Christmas ad, showing the fact that the kid in the video capturing the story is using his iPhone in portrait mode and so it's all fake.
During the show they point out his that the official Apple holiday ad has a glaring piece of poor advice in it.
But this is the video the kid really shot. Vertical Video!
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I've been filling in audience panel forms for the last couple of decades, often keeping track of the questions being posed. I really wonder what conclusions were ever drawn from them. Problem is that they are often templates and put together by researchers who are not regular listeners/viewers of the programme. I'm interested because I have always valued audience input - I believe it's essential to audience engagement. And the factual programmes that had the maximum involvement of the audience were the ones they remembered, often decades later.
In my more recent work with start-ups, I've been using the Lean Startup Methodology which encourages you to build a business model canvas and then test it on lead customers. Few business models survive that first encounter. If you've been involved in leading film, radio or TV production you already know about making a pilot production and testing it on a representative group before commissioning. So the method is nothing new. But I think many of us in the media could learn from books like the Mom Test in formulating much more useful questions in audience surveys. Just replace the word customer with listener/viewer/site user and you'll see what I am ranting on about.
The answers could be so much more use to programme makers in understanding why certain programmes or sites are more appreciated than others. If you look at slide 9 above, it shows you what someone is thinking during the test.
Found a great presentation by Rob Fitzpatrick from the Pioneers festival.
and in Berlin
Rob Fitzpatrick - How To Do (And What To Expect From) Early-Stage Customer Development & Sales from HackFwd on Vimeo.
I've done something similar with a recent survey that came in from an international broadcaster. It was clear that they simply wanted me to confirm a producer's hunch that they were making a better programme now than 6 months ago. They weren't interested in alternatives. They were making programmes for me, not with me. There was no open question at the end where I could share my thoughts. And they said my answers would be anonymized to protect my identity. In other words, if I did have something to say, the producer would never find out who suggested it. So, because I knew I had no influence on the future, I stopped wasting my time and got on with something else. In fact that was designing a much more useful questionnaire for a client. Learned a lot from others mistakes. Anyone have a similar experience?
Monday, December 16, 2013
Following a soft launch at the recent TEDx Amsterdam, Delft University has now released a demo if its bird-like drone. It flies itself but it looks to me as though it can't land...you simply have to grab it out of the air. Flying time in 8 minutes at the moment before the battery is exhausted. The users see it being used in concerts - though I don't believe the drone could carry a Gro-Pro plus a stabilizing gimbal. The TEDx talk mentions that it is an open source project. More details at www.delfly.nl
Sunday, December 15, 2013
I had read a previous book by the same authors, John Seely Brown and John Hagel III, called The Only Sustainable Edge. That was a great book, looking at how innovation in companies was happening at the edge where it was much easier to introduce disruptive ideas. There was a working paper that outlined their thinking in 2005.
The edge is becoming the core...
What do we mean by this? The edge is where the action is - in terms of growth,
innovation and value creation. Companies, workgroups and individuals that master
the edge will build a more sustainable core. While our primary focus will be on business
activity, our perspectives will also be relevant to leaders of other kinds of institutions as well - educational, governmental and social.
The edge is giving rise to a new common sense model.
We all perceive and act based on "common sense" assumptions about the world around
us and the requirements to achieve our goals. Every major technology shift has
produced a fundamentally new common sense model. Our goal is to understand and
describe key elements of the new common sense model emerging from technology
innovations - especially the invention of the microprocessor and the introduction.
In a discussion I saw while I was in California that year (Supernova) the two authors compared how Toyota and GM worked with their suppliers in completely different ways, pointing out the collaborative policies that Toyota built were far more productive than the "lowest price mentality" found in Detroit. I remember thinking that this was also going to disrupt the media production business I was in. This was the year that HD cameras became affordable (I bought one just before the trip). Podcasting was in its infancy. And international broadcasters were still struggling with what to do with content they wanted to push towards their listeners on the other side of the world. But they were still wondering what could replace crackly un-reliable low fidelity shortwave radio.
Rereading the working paper now, I realise that what happened next to the media world I operated in was already in the 2005 paper. I quote:
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a transformation of the media landscape. On the one hand, mass media is becoming more concentrated in terms of ownership as audiences and revenue sources slowly decline. On the other hand, we are witnessing a blossoming of niche content, aided by four converging developments: the development of low cost and easily accessible content creation tools, the spread of faster Internet as an infrastructure for content distribution, the growth of new forms of access devices and the emergence of new types of distribution businesses facilitating the transition to pull models of content distribution.
Rather than waiting for media companies to deliver relevant content at appropriate times, customers are increasingly reaching out to pull content to them when they want. They are aided in this task by new distribution businesses that are breaking down the shelf space constraints of traditional distribution channels, radically expanding the range of content that is available and providing robust tools to help customers find the content that is most relevant to them. Sometimes these new businesses look like more conventional retailers in the sense of providing a single point of access to broad assortments of media (e.g., Amazon or Netflix). Sometimes they provide new ways of sampling media before buying (e.g., Rhapsody). But others are quite different, ranging from eBay where the closest analogue is the local flea market to peer to peer networks that lack any central hub at all and enable owners of content to pull from each other directly.
“Podcasters” are also emerging to share customized selections of music from many different artists with friends and broader audiences. A vibrant remix culture has also emerged, assisted by widely affordable digital audio editing tools, in which DJ’s in night clubs and other music fans recombine and, in some cases, add audio tracks or channels from a recording to produce a modified audio recording.
(That paper is worth re-reading in full. I can't do justice to it here)
Why Push Media is Becoming Less InfluentialSo if we think of broadcasting as a giant push system, then the following assumptions made by John Seely Brown and John Hagel III in their latest book seem to me to be correct. I have adapted the quotation to fit the broadcast world.
- There’s not enough good content to go around. If you win, I lose.
- Elites do the deciding. In push systems, small groups of people (radio and TV executives) make the decisions on behalf of passive recipients who consume the output.
- Organizations like broadcasters must be hierarchical. How else can elites maintain their command and control?
- People must be molded. As content producers and as members of the audience, people are expected to follow certain patterns in ways that support predictable production and consumption of the programmes and services that are created and delivered through push systems.
- Bigger is better. Broadcasters and publishers can reap efficiencies by getting ever bigger, so that economies of scale yield lower and lower unit costs on products and services.
- Demand can be forecast. If consumers can be molded to consume what’s given to them, then it follows that business can forecast demand. Similarly, school systems can foresee what sorts of knowledge and skills students will need after graduation.
- Resources can be allocated centrally. This might smack of command economies, but the difference here is that it’s the center of the institution (i.e. upper management) that’s allocating the resources.
- Demand can be met. If demand can be forecast, and resources allocated accordingly, then it follows that companies can build processes and programs delivering resources to the right place at the right time and in the right quantities to meet that demand.
The problem is that for (international) broadcasters, understanding what the audience really wanted was almost impossible to measure. It was hard enough just registering that people were listening. Two of the main reasons for me to step out of the international broadcasting scene in 2003 were:
- It became increasingly difficult to work out what information audiences missed so much that they would buy a special radio and tune in on a completely different waveband at a specific time.
- Shortwave was increasingly less competitive in being able to deliver programme material at the right time on the right platform. I could also see an increasing interest in the use of video, well before YouTube came along.
|Netcasters like Leo Laporte have always included audiences in the discussion. This was taken in 2010 before they moved to much larger studio premises. But input from the chat room remains important.|
From Push to Pull.
So who is building new forms of engaging narratives?
I'm seeing organisations like Deutsche Welle run on-line labs to help journalists working in difficult situations. They also recommend some excellent resources from the Rory Peck Foundation in London as well as TacticalTech.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, has started its own collaboration lab in both New York and London. The FAQ's read like they have started an accelerator, though they offer no guarantees to the teams they select that there is a commission at the end of the 6 months. That must be a financial challenge to the media startups, though being able to say you're part of a BBC accelerator adds a lot to your credibility. And they are working on new ways to offer content in different ways than linear broadcast.
And in Amsterdam, the MakerStreet guild of companies is doing some high quality work with media organisations. I like the way they operate their Masterclasses the opposite way round from traditional training centres. They start with on-line specialist webinars which lead to a project proposal. They filter out the best ideas and if participants pass that test they are invited to a 4 day master class to build their project together with specialist mentors.
Cleverly made campaign video which has already been seen by 3.9 million people, if the YouTube stats can be believed. I think the remarks made by several of the male presenters beggars belief, although some are taken out of context. Many of the ads depicted in the video here remind me of the rude postcards you could buy at British seaside resorts in the 1980's. They show they don't understand how their audience has changed. Has anyone done anything similar analysing how women are represented in European media? I have seen reports, but actual examples are much more powerful.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
|My Kremlin visit was amazing. Could take my HD video camera inside, but not a tripod.|
When I started in international media in the 1980's, Radio Moscow dominated the shortwave airwaves. I believe it was logged as putting out 264 hrs of programming a day in 74 languages. Hard to believe nowadays. The station, now called Voice of Russia or more often "Radio VR", will in fact cease to be a radio station broadcasting on shortwave as from January 1st 2014. I'm surprised that the disappearance of a vast piece of broadcast history has gone virtually unnoticed. I have no doubt that some of the FM, DAB and even medium-wave outlets will remain, but at the moment nothing is confirmed.
This next programme was broadcast at the start of 1998. We only really started to get an idea of what broadcasting was like during the Cold War towards the end of the 1990's. I remember we had a visit from Estelle Winters, who is still a regular presenter on the Voice of Russia, the station that took over from Radio Moscow World Service. I remember when we finally saw pictures of the studios of Radio Moscow and realised why the station always had a signature sound - no matter what language, you could often identify the station on a crowded short-wave dial because of the modulation. The studios had two microphones pointing towards the presenter, giving it a characteristic echo since there is a phase difference between the sound captured by the mikes.
This programme broadcast in June 1995 included a profile of the music station in Moscow Radio 7. Around 23 minutes into the programme.
I recall talking to David Smith, a former Radio Netherlands colleague, in the gardens of a radio station in Nairobi in 2010. He had some marvellous stories about listening to Radio Moscow while growing up in Canada.
Early Shortwave Memories David Smith from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.
This next programme takes us back the start of March 1992, when things are starting to open up, media-wise, in the Russian capital. The show starts with a report by Rosella Strom who went to Geneva, Switzerland as part of the World Radio Congress at the ITU where large chunks of the radio spectrum were allocated. The Moscow report is in the second half.
Twenty-two years ago the Media News was centred around changes at Radio Moscow. With no way of doing a direct interview, we called Richard Measham at BBC Monitoring. And there were interesting comments from Vasily Strelnikov on his show. In January 1991, Radio Moscow changed its name to Radio Moscow World Service. We called Richard Measham at BBC Monitoring.
I see that Vasily Strelnikov is back on the Voice of Russia, reminiscing with colleagues about the days of Radio Moscow World Service. They have a facebook page (search for "from Moscow with Love").
In this next programme broadcast in January 1992, Richard Measham of BBC Monitoring explains how time changes in Russia have affected the complex external broadcast schedule (curiously time changes are back in the news as Russia has decided to adopt permanent summer time in 2011). Vasily explains about Radio Ala, a station which played Bard folkmusic which popped up on shortwave having hired transmission facilities formerly used by Soviet jammers. It was fascinating while it lasted. There's also an interval signal contest as compensation for Jim Cutler's Impossible Contest which we put out in April 1992. We played three interval signals at once, one of them backwards. But it didn't fool the dedicated listeners. I made the photo on a wet but fascinating day in Moscow in 2009. Incredible to see where those programmes were made.
Remarkably little of Radio Moscow recordings on YouTube. Found some? Leave a comment.
|Will never forget wandering through the centre of Moscow in 2009. It's an incredible place.|