Wednesday, 25 November 2009

How truly bad (some) newspaper editors are at making money (or how this is the century of the amateur communicator)

A brilliant exposition of how bad some newspaper publishers are at making money out of all that free traffic Google and company provide them with. If you still believe that the British Digital Economy bill is worth the e-paper it's burned into, please read this article first. The future is not Murdochian, not if the future is to include any of the oldco business models. For Murdoch and Mandelson's way will probably - quite contradictorily - end up achieving the final destruction of the old institutional newspaper publishing models: quite the opposite of what they were actually aiming for.

It may, in fact, end up leading to greater opportunities for end-user/producers as they happily allow search engines to find them.

In the Internet, visibility is everything. Web domains mean little these days. Search engines are how we find things. Search engines are the equivalent of the environmental knowledge we used to keep in our heads when our environment was our town. Now our environment is the planet, there is absolutely no way we will be able to do without search engines.

Microsoft's Bing is sizing up to be the Google for the oldco content providers and their 20th century publishing models. Bing believes in walls, in payments upfront, in monetising above all, in old-fashioned unidirectional relationships between passive consumers and directing producers. Bing and all those intellectual property merchants who will follow Murdoch's lead make up the last desperate throw of the dice of the oldco cash-cow-owning content providers who've suddenly discovered their cash cows aren't quite so attractive as they used to be. It's not piracy that - long-term - is going to do them in. It's simple boredom from consumers who are no longer captive. Organisations who collaboratively created quite magnificently in the 20th century are being outdone by millions of telephone texts, billions of downloads of home-made videos on YouTube, trillions of words published on Twitter, Facebook and blogs and an infinite number of social and personal exchanges between ordinary people who far prefer to spend their free time these days communicating with other ordinary people.

This is the century of amateur communicators. Partly because education has meant we're not so amateur any more. But mainly because - suddenly, for the price of a broadband connection - very simply we can. That's our essence as human beings. We are innate communicators. That's what we do. And we are beginning to get the hang of doing it without filters or intermediaries. We're beginning to want more of each other - and less of the professionals who once made a living out of publishing.

We're all now editors, authors, publishers and journalists. Doesn't mean we're good at it. Just means we're good enough.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

More bad news for books and mortar as Borders on border of collapse

The Guardian reports more sad news this evening, as talks to sell off most of Borders' stores struggle to achieve their objective.  Will Borders as a going concern now disappear from our cultural landscape? 

More here.

As we proclaim the virtues of e-books, this is the inevitable consequence.  Bricks and mortar collapse like puff pastry as the computer monitor and broadband connection take their place.

This is the future.  Only it's actually - and unfortunately - the present.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Kindle for PC

John Naughton argues that this is Amazon kind of running scared of Apple's threat to shortly iTune the entire e-book publishing industry.  Apple's good at simple gadgets which work.  But Kindle works too.  So I don't see the problem.

Not from a consumer point of view, anyhow.  Growing industry?  Greater competition?  More players?  Surely good news for everyone all round.

Kindle to the PC?  And how about to my Symbian phone?  Or my Linux-powered Eee PC 900 netbook?  Surely, far more useful. 

(Kindle to the PC seems a retrograde step.)

More from Naughton here.  Meanwhile, I've downloaded Amazon's Kindle for PC beta.  I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The making of an American soldier

A perfect example of how the arts of blogging can go further, much further. Photo-journalism of a most thoughtful kind in this extraordinary rite of passage.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Android (or how Google has out-Microsofted Microsoft)

We used to think, as perhaps the Japanese might think, that androids would resolve all kinds of future needs. In a country where ingenuity drives a progress of a kind, replacing a certain kind of human figure - that which mainly carries out drudge and caring functions, I suppose - with an electro-mechanical substitute could only ever be seen as a positive.

Those sorts of androids are here, at shows and in glossy magazines - and, yet, we still do not really see them in our own homes.

However, all of a sudden, at the hands of Google, we suddenly discover that an android of sorts is taking over.  For years, Microsoft reaped the benefits of realising sooner than anyone else that there was more money to be made in software than hardware - and thus succeeded in dismantling IBM as the paradigm of IT corporations.

Everyone else since has tried to dislodge Microsoft from its pedestal.  Some have stalked Office - my favourite open source program OpenOffice.org being just one example - whilst others have stalked Windows; in such cases with only varying degrees of success.

In the meantime, Microsoft has - most curiously - decided it needs to get back into the hardware market.  From its sad foray into music players Zune to its unreliable game console the Xbox, it really hasn't hit the spot. I suppose having all that money makes you believe you can cover all the bases - an error Google itself may one day be in danger of committing, if it ever decides to move into hardware.  But at the moment it would appear that Google has learned the lesson that Microsoft has forgotten.

This article on Google's new operating system Android, e-readers and e-books nominally takes us for a stroll around the whys and wherefores of this conjunction of technologies, and the cross-gadget implications for those of us who like publishing.  But - by the by - it also seems to explains the immense power Google is unleashing against Microsoft.  There are so many companies and individuals out there who in tight economic circumstances are looking for a free killer application to service their software needs, that the simply laying out of the ground rules makes them truly slaver in anticipation - though probably not too obviously.  As things stand, they dare not as yet say no to Microsoft's licencing demands, business methods or etiquette.  But, like the grip of a very 21st century vice, Google is slowly doing to Microsoft what Microsoft did to IBM - becoming that replacement paradigm of IT organisations.

And it's not even being original about it - it's just following Microsoft's late 20th century lead, only in this case using the search technologies and their related income to lever an operating system takeover through the back door.  High-powered desktops will matter less and less.  Clever little palm-helds, those mobile phones we've become so accustomed to, are where we're all migrating.  It's a metamorphosis of functionality and usage on an untold scale.

And here Windows, Office and all the other Microsoft brands count for very very little.

I tell you what - the day it's as easy to print an email from a mobile phone as it is from a desktop PC is the day Microsoft will have finally lost the battle for the early quarter of the 21st century and Google will have finally won.

The sad thing is that like New Labour and the Thatcherite Tories before, the battle may eventually be seen to have been won on Microsoft's terms and using Microsoft's methods.

Let's hope not.

Let's just be aware of the dangers.