Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Big media influencing…

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Yesterday morning I had a car pick me up from our HQ and deliver me to the TV center at White City – this is where the BBC resides. It was to record the next Shop Talk, a programme on Radio 4, the subject, wait for it… was blogging. But not just any old blogging but blogging for companies, which is not surprising given the title of the show.

Leading up to the recording day, I had an interesting conversation with one of the producer of the programme who intelligently guided me through the topics he was interested in covering and I was able to recommend some other contacts, one of them, Thomas Marne Mahon of English Cut, will be appearing on the show.

I was also looking forward to meeting other participants – Heather Platts of Soap blog, Simon Phipps of Sun Microsystems and Sun Mink and Collaborate Marketing and Paul Woodhouse of Tinbasher (who was sadly missed in the end).

My impressions from the experience are very positive although the programme was a series of smoothly choreographed questions addressed to specific people based on previous interviews with them. The answers will be heavily edited for reasons of time but overall I think most of us had a good chance to say things and make our point. The frustrating thing for me was that there was no room for discussion or elaboration on our own or each other’s statements. However, given the nature of the programme – an introductory and entertaining chat about something that may be perceived as complex or obscure to many of the listeners – it was a necessity.

The presenter, Heather Payton, was very pleasant and professional and her role was crucial as she was the one that knew the audience, not us. We understood the topic and she understood the audience and the rest was making the two come together.

So it was hippo talking to the birdies for a change…

Update: I think the show airs next Tuesday at 4pm.

Wikimedia needs your help

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From Wikimedia Foundation:

The Wikimedia Foundation and all its projects are growing at a rate faster than we ever dreamed. Wikipedia.org alone gets 800 million hits a day, making it one of the top 50 websites in the world. That means that people everywhere are turning to our projects—Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, and the Wikimedia Commons—as a free reliable source of information and knowledge.

Our projects continue to grow rapidly, thanks to all the contributors and users who believe that knowledge is power, and knowledge should be free. To achieve that goal, we need your help.

via Dan Gillmor

I spy something beginning with “s”…

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The State of Spyware report by Webroot Inc has noted a sharp increase in spyware websites.

The report has found that the number of corporate spyware incidents has dramatically increased, as has the sophistication with which spyware infiltrates a machine and eludes detection. Webroot has also seen the number of entries in its spyware definition database double so far this year to over 100,000.

I downloaded the report, which apart from the numbers and analysis, contains useful background information about spyware and how it differs from viruses and other forms employed by the ’scum of the internet’…

Spyware’s underlying principle: it is a business. The shadowy – and sometimes very up-front – purveyors of this insidious practice are distant cousins to their counterparts in the virus world. Although some protest that spyware is just another form of viruses, cursory inspection reveals one significant difference: money.

Virus writers are… like graffiti artists, unleashing cyber-havoc on the world for their own voyeuristic enjoyment and for the renown within their own twisted, hacker circles. Viruses were — to our thinking — simply vandalism.

Spyware is different. It is an enterprise, designed as a profit-making venture to inflict users, at best, with an onslaught of pop-up ads that translates in micro-charges and eventually amounts to real money; or at worse, just to steal from an unsuspecting user who wandered into the wrong place or clicked on the wrong OK button. Virus writing may gain some twisted fame, spyware brings fortune.

And this will be driving the trends until the root causes aren’t addressed. What are the root causes? As I point out elsewhere there is an unholy aliance between adware and the ‘respectable’ online advertising industry. The latter provides incentives for the former:

First, adware vendors continue to generate revenue using the proven infection methods of pop-up ads and click-throughs.

Webroot report sees legislative actions as the way to stem the tide of adware and spyware. I agree, up to a point – there must be a legal stance and a framework for dealing with them. However, I don’t believe that is what will eliminate both the annoyance and the serious threat to the users. As Webroot correctly emphasises, as long as there is money in it, they will look for ways to protect their business model:

…spyware is a business and, when one market starts to wane, a capable business does one of two things. Either, they defend their franchise and/or they find new markets to exploit.

Spyware routinely now has a hydra-like capability to morph into new forms when the original executable is detected and removed. Spyware programs are now using new and ingenious tactics to send information. Spyware writers understand that their business model is under siege and to survive they are employing every tactic they can.

The second tact[ic] a threatened business will take is to look for new products and new markets. The incidents of Trojans and system monitors are growing much faster than more tolerable ad-pushing software. Basically, spyware writers are creating new and more innovative products to flood the market.

Not a good prospect. Of course, this is all connected with spam and the recent pointing of fingers at splogs and search engine spam. I guess it may be a sign of maturity in the blogosphere when bloggers are using the network to call for war on blog spam and identifying the ‘root causes’. The number of times we come across blogs flooded with old trackback and/or comment spam is shocking, I wonder if their owners simply have given up or are not aware of their unwitting cooperation with the spammers by keeping their blogs polluted. We have decided to introduced a policy on Samizdata.net, not to link to those blogs that are afflicted by spam despite their linkable content and send a polite warning email to their owners, including links to information about blacklists and other anti-spam measures. Let’s hope that every little bit helps…

If splogs are the cancer, what does that make advertising?

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Doc Seals issues a call to arms against splogs, the latest form of exploitation of the blogs and the Live Web by spammers.

I suggest that everybody in the search engine business, including all the Static Web and Live Web companies I listed above, pool their knowledge and expertise, and beat a cancer that (in my humble but considered opinion) threatens the whole Live Web, including blogging in particular and frequently updated free content in general.

Across the search engine marketplace, there is an enormous amount of duplicated effort fighting splogs and other forms of blog spam. There is also an open source solution to this: share the know-how. Even the data (perhaps through a public list of offenders).

Prior to the battle cry, there is a succint explanation of the latest blog spam scam for the unitiated:

Blog spammers make money through what Mark Cuban calls "splogs": any blog whose creator doesn’t add any written value. Here’s one that showed up in my aggregator this morning, probably because it included a link to this blog, my name, or both. It was clearly created, and is kept up to date, by automatic processes of some kind. That one happens to be a Blogspot blog. There are others coming out of hosting services using Moveable Type or Wordpress. Surely many more come from other sources as well. What matters is that they are being created by the many thousands, every day. At the top of the splog in the last paragraph are four "Ads by Goooooogle". That phrase links to Google’s AdSense service, via a URL that includes the four ads below it, all placed by AdSense on the splog.

And the driving force, the fuel for this is advertising:

Now, for the advertisers, does this splog not add value? If somebody clicks through to any of those four advertisers, or to AdSense, is their per-click expense well spent? Whether or not the answer to that is "yes" for everybody else, it’s certainly "yes" for the splogger who gets paid for the click. And that’s exactly how sploggers will defend their business model.

The Problem is the corrupting influence of Big Ad Money itself.

I guess some might think that this is taking the dislike of advertising too far. But I haven’t seen Doc proposing to eliminate advertising, simply identifying where the money for blog spammers is. As I say to whomever will listen, there are two roads that marketing can take – one is louder, bigger, more ‘creative’ and even more interruptive to capture the ever elusive attention of its ‘target audience’. This road ultimately leads to the ’scum of the internet’ – adware, spyware and blog spam to measure and exploit every flick of our eyeballs. The other is engagement, dare I say, a conversation and leads…God knows where. One think I am sure of – you’ll be tripping over blogs along the way.

Last summer day?

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Sunshine in Chelsea

You are making me mAd

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A very forceful post by Tomi Ahonen on Communities Dominate Brands blog about mobile advertising entitled: How to annoy customers part x: bluetooth intrusive ads. You can probably tell that I am going to like it…

Here is how the advertising works. There are Bluetooth sensors in the airport at given locations, such as the Virgin lounge. They can detect any modern mobile phone that has its Bluetooth short-range wireless feature turned on, at a range of about 50 meters (150 feet). If you walk by, have your Bluetooth on (on your mobile phone, PDA, laptop, etc), you get pushed one of these ads. It appears on your phone as if you had been sent a message. You click on the link and get the full message. One of the first ads is a short videoclip about the latest car from Range Rover.

The WSJE article [that Tomi read about this bluetooth advertising] reports that a recent mAd campaign generated a 15% response rate.

And then Tomi just let’s rip:

First, this is the SAME intrusive interruptive annoying advertising that we all are trying hard to avoid today. It is the identical "free and annoying" ad strategy as putting banner ads on the internet, and follows on the idea of interrupting movies etc on TV with advertising. The public does NOT want this. The evidence is very plain. Dont’ be fooled that an early campaign has generated a 15 percent response rate – that is the novelty factor, and many of the recepients were unaware that those messages were ads.

Secondly this is NOT the philosophy of "permission-based" but rather a perversion of that. They push links to your phone without your permission, and then ask if you want the full ad. I don’t want ANYTHING pushed at my phone without my express prior approval.

I am getting tired of the ‘permission-based’ marketing spin. Marketers can seem to give up the control so they construe all sort of things as reasons to send you their ‘messages’ and ads. It was only recently that I realised to my shock that advertisers and marketers see ads as delivering ‘value’ to their audiences. Unbelievable! Talk about delusions…

And finally, Tomi points out that soon this ‘channel’ will be soon shut down anyway.

There are already mobile phone viruses that disguise themselves as Bluetooth messages. How soon does one of these figure itself out to pretend to be a car advertisement at the airport and start to infect dozens, if not hundreds of mobile phones about to depart that airport (and spread the virus rapidly around the globe). This is not science fiction, those viruses already exist, and they appear exactly like these ads, with a link asking you to accept a message and store it on your phone.

The users will learn that keeping their bluetooth turned on eats up your battery life and soon most of them will learn to turn it off, as the annoying messages will proliferate.

Proximity-based spam is cheap and fast. And stupid.

Hear, hear. Read the whole thing, as they say.

Music of the long tail

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Classical music lovers may be leading the way in what I am starting call the long tail for producers.

A pair of classical music enthusiasts has spent half a decade combing archives and obsessively re-creating hundreds of obscure pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven for download as MIDI files.

Their hope is to rekindle mainstream interest in the great German composer, and so far they’ve done all right: The National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., performed their reconstruction of an overture originally intended to be part of an opera based on Shakespeare’s "Macbeth."

The two enthusiasts are part of a growing community of amateurs and semi-professionals who are using the internet and other digital tools to bring classical music out of concert halls and academies, hoping to popularize it with the force of the Internet. Classical music sales are about 3 percent of the market. The energy from this classical ’sub-culture’ is emanating from the blogosphere consisting of music fans, the New Yorker magazine’s music critic, Live365 programmes run by home disc jockeys and the eager amateur criticism accompanying this spring’s Webcast of the Van Cliburn piano competitions.

When the BBC offered versions of Beethoven symphonies on its site, in conjunction with a series of features on the composer, there were more than 1 million downloads in just a few weeks. That’s some demand, which had the time and opportunity to aggregate, without the pressure of audience, distribution and immediate impact.

The New York Times for strange reason labeled the performance "a sham and a shame and some scholars, such as University of Manchester professor Barry Cooper, a Beethoven scholar who has reconstructed an unfinished Tenth Symphony, are not impressed either:

Merely playing previously unplayed works, digitally, is not going to create a significant base for scholarly advance. Its main advantage for scholars may be in drawing attention to works they might previously have overlooked.

To me, this shows another crack in the traditional producer-distribution-audience models. It is obvious that scholars and professionals were not the audience. The two Beethoven enthusiasts were first doing what they wanted to enjoy and couldn’t find and now they are hoping to reach the mainstream in a way academicians and virtuosos can’t. As Doc Searls points out, this is the demand side supplying itself. Sure, enthusiasts and amateurs have achieved feats that impressed the official experts and professionals but now, thanks to an unparalled distribution system that the internet has become, they can go directly to the audience. Some consumer-generated content that is scaring those who grew comfortable with the model and the control it gave them…

The idea is to promote listeners getting familiar with unfamiliar music. Scholars have had access to this stuff for well over a hundred years, and haven’t done anything with it.

News demand tracked on web

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A news mapping service by Akamai Technologies promises to give unprecedented insight into the relative hunger that millions of Internet users have to learn of breaking events minute-by-minute.

The Akamai Net News Index provides a map of six global regions and measures the current appetite for news relative to average daily demand in terms of millions of visitors to news sites per minute, per week, within each geographic region. Spikes in traffic can reveal the next wave of news demand.

When news breaks, studies show that the Internet is displacing television and print media for instant information. The index could act act as early warning system on major news events, or for retrospective trend research later. Akamai Chief Executive Paul Sagan asks:

How do you measure an event of a certain magnitude? No one know what that means really. We are going to let people draw their own conclusions.

Akamai_news_index

Guess where I am?

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Update: Alright, I am in an office of a client/contact and was demonstrating moblogging by taking a picture of a painting on their wall and posting it from my Nokia phone. Move along, nothing to see here…

New York state of mind

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It looks like I am going to be in New York in September (final dates yet to be confirmed) and would love to provide an excuse for a geek dinner to the local bloggers and blog groupies.

The date is 15th September and the venue, preferrable somewhere in Manhattan, is yet to be arranged. If you are in the area, please join me. You can add your name to a wiki I set up for that very purpose, following a highly successful tradition of geek dinners organised by Hugh Macleod and Lloyd Davis in London. By the way, there is one tomorrow – London Girl Geek Party, guy geeks eat your hearts out.

For those who look for meaning in everything, I shall be in New York after attending the Johnson & Johnson Global Communications Conference in Jersey City (for senior communications professionals no less) during 12-14th September, talking about… well, you’d have to wait and see, won’t you? :-)

Will keep you posted. In the meantime, just add your name to the wiki, damn it. Don’t you like fun and bloggers and geeks? No need to answer that…

cross-posted from the Big Blog Company

See of content

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Apologies for the pun but just wanted to draw your attention to my pontifications on Blowing Smoke blog about content and its online availability. It’s not like I don’t have enough blogs to contribute to

Danny and his electric car

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Dannyscar

Danny Fleet has been vlogging about his new acquired electric car for driving around London. Although I am a motorbike girl, I am fascinated. I have learnt more about electric cars in a few video clips then from reading a boring brochure. I am not knocking promotional literature, just making a point that I enjoy’s Danny’s blog. I also like the name of his blog… Danny’s Contentment.

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