Thought Starters: digital landscape, journalism, virtual reality and globalisation in a changing world

Thought Starters provides me with a chance to review and highlight some of the more important or interesting research and opinions that I’ve read over the last week or so. This edition looks at views on the evolving digital landscape, journalism’s changing role, naysayers on virtual reality and the impact of globalisation among other things:

Mary Meeker has released her annual Internet Trends presentation providing a valuable look at the intersection of technology and commerce. You can catch videos of Mary Meeker’s presentation along with those from Jeff BezosBill and Melinda Gates, Elon Musk, Sundar Pichai among others from the recent Code conference:

Providing something of an antidote to Meeker and friends’ boosterism are Nitasha Tiku’s and Emily Bell’s analysis of the conference and the less desirable impacts of our move towards an increasingly technology mediated world:

A fascinating aspect of the Kleiner Perkins ritual is how the extremely detailed and comprehensive slide deck leaves unsaid the important extrapolations that can be made from it. There is no room here for a mention of Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who secretly funded Hulk Hogan’s devastating lawsuit against gossip and news site Gawker, and the subsequent debate about the controls on and role of free speech in a powerful commercial sphere. Population and employment trends are nodded to without a discussion of how every job we currently hold is going to be done better by a robot. There is a celebration of listening devices, and “audio search”, and an unrelated chart about how people feel about privacy and data without an explicit link being made between the two.

LUMA’s State of Digital Media offers another tech positive look at the way the internet is evolving, although as the name suggests, the presentation narrows its view to the world of digital media:

Much has been made about the risks and opportunities presented by ad blocking services. Unfortunately despite all the talk, there’s far from a consensus on how widespread their use actually is as Jessica Davies shows:

Ad blocking rates in Europe and US

Ben Matthews has pulled together a typology of the online video sector for those of you looking to get your head around the different players:

Online video ecosystem

The Economist looks at how Europe’s tighter regulatory environment has stunted the growth of internet based platform companies but goes on to suggest China and USA are likely to follow a similar path in watching over their digital giants in future:

Market capitalisation of platform companies

Facebook is one of the platform companies that appears pretty unassailable at present and it’s using its chokehold on consumers’ media consumption to dial back the content reaching consumers according to Hannah Kuchler’s report:

Media companies publishing to Facebook are reaching 42 per cent fewer people with each story since January, a new report claims, putting pressure on the social network to explain how it has changed its algorithm.

Stories posted to Facebook reached an average of 68,000 users in May, down from about 117,000 in January, according to SocialFlow, a platform used by publishers to post half a million stories to Facebook and other social media sites each month.

Twitter has become something of a whipping boy for tech journalists with Paul Smalera highlighting the platform’s abuse problem aided and abetted by the relative anonymity provided to Twitter users (vis-à-vis Facebook):

Today, Twitter is in desperate need of a similarly elegant solution to its abuse problem. Jack Dorsey may have to take a hit to the company’s growth and its stock price, to fix things. But our real world and online identities have merged. And people don’t like to feel unsafe or subject to anonymous attack. If Twitter keeps shedding users who refuse to tolerate hate speech, Dorsey won’t have to worry about Twitter’s viability and future for too much longer, anyway.

Speaking of journalists, Jessica Conditt’s profile of US Bureau of Labour statistics points to the massive decline in people working for America’s newspapers with some of the slack being picked up by internet publishing and broadcasting:

Employment in selected information industries, seasonally adjusted

Whilst we’re on the subject of journalism, it’s been fascinating and concerning watching the debates around Peter Thiel’s support for legal action against Gawker. I’d support the view that Gawker regularly overstepped lines of decency. That being said, I’d hate to see publishers change their reporting practices based on the fear of legal action from a few wealthy individuals as reflected in Nicholas Lemann’s musings:

The Republican candidate for President, for whom Thiel plans to serve as a California delegate, has said, “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money”—meaning, he’ll do what he can to overturn the Sullivan standard. The Gawker case may be only the first in a string of lawsuits that unleash a generation’s worth of resentment against the uniquely legally privileged position of the American press, at a moment when the press is far more vulnerable, economically and culturally, than it used to be. Journalists and their lawyers ought to be arming themselves for a protracted war.

Ericsson has updated its Mobility Report providing statistics on the growth of mobile telecommunications and use of mobile data including coverage of the Internet of Things:

Subscriptions/lines, subscribers (billion)

Is virtual reality at the top of the hype cycle? There’s no doubt that there’s huge potential for immersive virtual experiences but questions remain as to whether current offerings have mass market potential. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has questioned whether there is much of a market for a $2000 system (although this will inevitably come down). Probably more concerning is Steve Baker’s critique of the technical limitations of the current platforms which are likely to limit longer periods of use:

I’ve been working with these displays – both the $80,000 kind and the $500 kind – for years. Almost everyone can tolerate wearing them for several minutes before getting sick. About half of people feel sick after a few minutes – and (maybe) half of them get so sick that they have to take off the goggles ASAP. Anecdotal evidence – sadly.

Most of the demo’s that are given at trade shows and other industry events are just a few minutes long. I don’t know whether that’ s intentional or not…but it explains why so many people THINK that they’re going to love VR – sadly, they won’t realize the problem until AFTER they’ve splurged $500 on one of these gizmos.

 “It’s way too expensive right now,” Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, “There is no market for a $2000 entertainment device that requires you to dedicate a room to the activity. I don’t know what people could be thinking. Maybe some of the people in this room have a room to dedicate to an entertainment activity, but back here in the real world? That’s not what we have in America.”

Labour productivity is an important indicator of the future health of countries’ economies and despite all the talk of automation and robot apocalypse, recent figures from Steven Rattner don’t look encouraging:

Labour productivity growth in G7 countries

Vincent Bevins looks at the rise of presidential candidates taking a critical view on international trade at a time when the US is doing rather well out of the process of globalisation (although the benefits are often very unequally distributed):

Indeed, down here this seems like an especially odd moment for the United States to complain. China is again an exception, but in developing countries, globalization often meant giving up on financial controls and the long-held dream of producing anything more advanced than raw materials. The logic of comparative advantage dictated that from South America to South Africa, poorer countries would either rip stuff out of the Earth and sell it abroad, or allow their people to provide cheap labor.

For a brief, shining moment in the first decade of the century, it seemed like this was kind of working. We spent time lamenting the environmental and human impact, but we also celebrated that there were at least revenues. The BRICS acronym came to symbolize the power these countries might (again) have a chance to attain. The 2008 implosion of the world economy—caused by the United States—offered a space for them to occupy, or so it seemed. But the last four years have brought a brutal reversal. Commodities prices were dependent on Chinese growth, and when they dropped, along with the price of oil, countries relying on this model saw their entire economic and political systems disrupted. Meanwhile, the United States is again ascendant, having once more proved its ability to reinvent itself as the dominant global power.

The United States is still by far the richest large country on the globe. So why is the boss of the world whining about globalization?

The RSA hosts some great talks providing windows into our current society and where it’s heading. A recent highlight was Parag Khanna’s recent talk examining the world’s evolving geographical landscape in a digital age where connectivity increasingly transcends sovereignty:

Yale’s Environmental Policy Index provides a valuable measure of which countries are doing well in addressing the world’s many environmental problems. Not too many surprises but it’s worth reading the full report for a more detailed analysis across nine different categories:

Global Environmental Performance Index results

Cigarette smoking is declining as a health issue across much of the developed world as it gets sidelined by regulations and controls. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for many developing countries where the tobacco industry is making inroads according to WHO figures:

Where did smoking rates rise between 2000 and 2015?

Social media and cultural tribes can sometimes make interesting bedfellows. Tasbeeh Herwees provides a  colourful look at the growth of shoplifting communities on Tumblr as American teenagers look for new outlets for their rebellion:

Barbie and Unicorn-Lift abide by a prevailing rule in the lifting community, one of many informal commandments shared among the bloggers: Thou shalt not rip off mom-and-pop shops.

The impact statement from Brock Allen Turner’s rape victim provides a first hand account of why intoxication doesn’t provide any justification for non consensual sexual intercourse. Difficult but important reading:

I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name.

The featured image is Gaze, an installation by STFNV in Tbilisi, Georgia for the 4GB music festival and published in StreetArtNews.

Thought Starters: the move to mobile, Oculus Rift, post Arab Spring and experiments with universal basic income

Thought Starters provides me with a chance to look through articles, research and opinion pieces, highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in. This edition includes a look at the growing importance of mobile, questions about Oculus Rift, coverage of Middle East post Arab Spring, Finland’s experiment with the universal basic income and much more.

The International Telecommunications Union’s Measuring the Information Society Report provides a valuable collection of telecom statistics with an accompanying webpage enabling users to quick compare different countries and regions. What becomes quickly apparent in some of the statistics is how less developed countries have skipped of fixed telecoms as they make the transition directly to a mobile world:

ICT access by development status

Whilst the move to mobile is particularly apparent in many developing countries, figures from Enders Analysis point to UK’s own transition to mobile in internet use, ecommerce and online advertising:

Monetisation of mobile devices

Taking this further, Benedict Evans puts forward 16 hypotheses on how mobile has reshaped the technology landscape. Well worth spending time with this and the his accompanying articles.

Neural nets are one of the areas where we’re seeing significant advances in artificial intelligence.  Steven Levy has an entertaining profile of the work Alexander Mordvintsev and his attempts to understand how these neural nets work which has led to computationally produced images that are probably best described as psychedelic:

Inside Deep Dreams: How Google Made Its Computers Go Crazy

Oculus Rift has become the poster boy for the virtual reality community but Jason Pfaff suggests the need for expensive goggles tethered to a powerful Windows PC and poor user experience could see it quickly disrupted:

Which brings me to Oculus, and their flagship product, the Rift.  Today, as anyone with an Oculus development kit (DK2) will tell you, the experience provided by the hardware is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.  It is pure, blissful magic.  But, and this is key, to get to that experience you have to do a few things you haven’t done in a long time.  For starters, you need to buy a premium and Windows based PC.  Then, you have to find a massive file on an online store and wait minutes for it to download and eat large swaths of your memory.  Then you go into Windows Explorer, paste it from your download folder to the folder Oculus will read from, and then you extract the files.  Think about that.  Then you crack open that folder to find the one that launches it, then you click, then you wait, and then you hope.  And if it doesn’t work, you try another folder or another file, or look for another file called “Direct to Rift mode” to see if that forces the app through to the display.  This is repeated for every app, piece of content or game you want to display on your Rift. A lot of friction.

The media sector continues to evolve as consumers move their content consumption online and content producers find their access to consumers increasingly dictated by social media. The Nieman Foundation has asked a long list of opinion makers what they think are the important issues and trends for journalism in 2016.

Consumers are moving to non linear television with the use of PVRs (eg Sky+HD box), catch up television services (eg BBC iPlayer) and subscriptions to streaming video services (eg Netflix). James Poniewozik looks at what this means for the makers and consumers of television programmes:

HBO series like “Deadwood” — which jettisoned the ad breaks and content restrictions of network TV — have been compared to Dickens’s serial novels. Watching a streaming series is even more like reading a book — you receive it as a seamless whole, you set your own schedule — but it’s also like video gaming. Binge-watching is immersive. It’s user-directed. It creates a dynamic that I call “The Suck”: that narcotic, tidal feeling of getting drawn into a show and letting it wash over you for hours. “Play next episode” is the default, and it’s so easy. It can be competitive, even. Your friends are posting their progress, hour by hour, on social media. (“OMG #JessicaJones episode 10!! Woke up at 3 a.m. to watch!”) Each episode becomes a level to unlock.

With those new mechanics comes a new relationship with the audience. Traditional television — what the jargonmeisters now call “linear TV” — assumes that your time is scarce and it has you for a few precious hours before bed. The streaming services assume they own your free time, whenever it comes — travel, holidays, weekends — to fill with five- and 10-hour entertainments.

Tom Mitchell and Patti Waldmeir look at the massive growth in China’s  business elite and the growing tension with the ruling Communist Party which has seen the temporary disappearance of a number of business leaders:

The number of dollar billionaires in China

Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is about to come out of copyright in Germany which has prompted The Economist to look at the shadow Nazi rule casts on contemporary German society:

If a country can ever be said to be good, Germany today can. And yet Germans know that whenever others are angry with them, they will paint a Hitler moustache on posters of their chancellor. Many Germans are fed up with this—with being “blackmailed”, as Bild, the leading tabloid, complained this spring, when Greece unexpectedly brought war reparations into negotiations about bail-outs in the euro crisis. Other Germans, mainly on the left, fret about a new “post-post-nationalism”, as Germany tentatively articulates its self-interest abroad. For most countries, this would count as normal. For Germany, it remains complicated.

Gilbert Achcar and Nada Matta look at the more recent legacy of the Arab Spring five years on from its beginnings in Tunisia, and they point to why some countries where more successful in their transitioning than others:

Five years into the uprisings, however, counterrevolutionary forces composed of the old regimes and Islamic fundamentalist forces have regained the political initiative, and are now violently vying for control. Egypt is under a worse dictatorship than before its uprising, and civil wars have broken out in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Hundreds of thousands have died, and many millions have been displaced.

It’s also well worth reading Scott Atran’s detailed analysis of the rise of ISIS in which he draws parallels with earlier revolutionary movements and the conviction of its members which is in stark contrast to much of its opponents:

Civilisations rise and fall on the vitality of their cultural ideals, not their material assets alone. History shows that most societies have sacred values for which their people would passionately fight, risking serious loss and even death rather than compromise. Our research suggests this is so for many who join ISIS, and for many Kurds who oppose them on the frontlines. But, so far, we find no comparable willingness among the majority of youth that we sample in Western democracies. With the defeat of fascism and communism, have their lives defaulted to the quest for comfort and safety? Is this enough to ensure the survival, much less triumph, of values we have come to take for granted, on which we believe our world is based? More than the threat from violent jihadis, this might be the key existential issue for open societies today.

There’s been a lot of talk about a movement from corporate to self-employment. For those people whose skills are in demand, this can offer substantial benefits but for the less in demand, the transition to the freelance economy can pose significant challenges to individuals financial security. One of the solutions being suggested to this problem is the introduction of a universal basic income, guaranteeing all members of society an income regardless of their situation. Ben Schiller covers Finland’s experiment with the model, with the country seeing real potential benefits in terms of security, incentives to work and reduced bureaucracy:

The Finnish government likes the concept, and it’s putting serious resources behind a national experiment. Starting in 2017, up to 100,000 Finns could get up to 1,000 euros a month, in lieu of other benefits. These lucky souls won’t have to work. They won’t have to prove they’re in poverty to get the money. For two years, they’ll get a fixed amount to do with what they will.

The featured image is a mural produced by 108 for Bien Urbain in Besancon, France and found on ekosystem.

What I’m reading…favourite blogs and websites

You’ll find a list of some of my favourite blogs and websites below. There’s plenty more I could add but the quality of content for these is generally consistent and I’d argue worth adding to your RSS feed.

TECHNOLOGY

AsymcoHorace Dediu’s blog which focuses on mobile and Apple. Great for taking the wind out of the sails of Apple’s enemies.

Recent favourite: Desktop Computer takes an irreverent looks at the evolution of Apple’s computer offering.

Benedict Evans: blog of Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans focusing on technology on technology and mobile. Great for a window into where technology is heading.

Recent favourite: Mobile, ecosystems and the death of PCs looks at the growth of the mobile ecosystem and the key differences from the PC ecosystem that preceded it.

Continuations: blog for Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger providing a look into trends in technology and the startup sector and venturing out to broader societal trends.

Daring Fireball: blog focusing on consumer electronics, focusing on the world of Apple as John Gruber sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Recent favourite: Bloomberg: Apple gets more bang for its R&D buck

Digits to Dollars: blog for the D2D Advisory providing analysis and commentary on the technology, communications and the startup space.

Recent favourite: The Consumerization of the Automobile Supply Chain looks at automobile industry’s move to an increasingly software driven model which is undermining the position of the market incumbents.

Learning by Shipping: blog of former president of the Windows Division of Microsoft and now Andreessen Horowitz partner Steven Sinofsky focusing on development and management within the tech space.

Recent favourite: Frictionless Design Choices looks at the importance of reducing the energy required by an experience when designing a product (not to be confused with reducing the surface area of an experience).

Stratechery: freemium blog produced by Ben Thompson focusing on the intersection of technology and media. Whilst the website has a subscription offering, Ben provides a weekly posting which I would suggest is a must read.

Recent favourite: Beyond Disruption takes critical look at Clayton Christensen’s theory of market disruption -it’s not all about disruptive or sustaining innovation.

MARKETING

Inside Intercom: Intercom is marketing automation and customer service platform which publishes a valuable collection of content focusing on how to improve customer experiences.

Recent favourite: Our New Book: Intercom on Customer Support profiles the release of their latest best practice guide – informative and readable.

Occam’s Razor: blog for Google Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik. Whilst the blog is no thing of beauty, Avinash’s data driven approach to marketing provides a refreshing scientific view on how to engage and sell.

Recent favourite: How To Suck At Social Media: An Indispensable Guide For Businesses looks critically at the role of social media in B2B and B2C marketing.

WeAreSocial: blog of the high profile social media agency of the same name. The blog provides a valuable weekly roundup of interesting product launches and case studies and the regional roundups of digital and social statistics.

Recent favourite: Digital in Southeast Asia in 2015 provides statistics on internet, social media and mobile usage in in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and East Timor.

JOURNALISM AND SOCIETY

Longform: blog providing a heads up on interesting longform journalism as well as profiling their podcast which I would also firmly recommend checking out.

Longreads: operating like the Longform blog, providing recommendations for stories worth adding to your Pocket account.

Marginal Revolution: blog of the American academic economist Tyler Cowen. A great source of information for new research, shedding light on different corners of the society we live in.

Recent Favourite: Shipping storage cost sentences to ponder pointed out how ridiculously low shipping costs are at present.

Remains of the Day: Eugene Wei’s blog where he highlights interesting content he’s found online with an emphasis on technology, the internet,  filmmaking, photography, and pop culture.

Recent favourite: Crime and Punishment looks at the mismatch between crime and punishment in the US.

CREATIVE

The Inspiration: blog pulling together a collection of visually led creative which includes but is not limited to content from the marketing and advertising sector.

CR Blog: blog providing a showcase for some of the great content in the Creative Review magazine.

Recent favourite: Cassetteboy on making mash-ups, helping David Cameron get piggy with it, and the joy of Sony Vegas

StreetArtNews: regular publisher of street art from around the world.

MUSIC

FACT: website that’s closest to my own musical orientation with its concentration on  bleeps, beats and breaks. I’ve got a particular soft spot for their Friday rundown of the best free mixes available online.

Pitchfork: whilst Pitchfork’s indie heartland isn’t quite my thing, the site’s coverage of other genres is more than enough to keep me coming back for more.

Resident Advisor: my days of clubbing seem to be something of a distant memory now, but I still like to keep an eye on the sounds that used to make me move.

CYCLING

As Easy As Riding A Bike: tireless blog by Mark Treasure campaigning for a safer cycling  with focusing on issues affecting London.

Recent favourite: Cycling Needs a Backlash points out that the increasingly public backlash against cycling points to

Inner Ring: professional cycling has become my guilty pleasure following critics pontificating on the season’s races, cyclists, teams and industry machinations. Inner Ring has it covered.

Recent favourite(s): Highlights of the Season – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 covering the most entertaining moments in this year’s cycling season.

CyclingTips: another site providing coverage of professional cycling as well as the competitive end of recreational cycling with a recently launched companion site covering women’s cycling. The site’s Daily News Digests gives a great rundown of the day’s major news but it’s the site’s use of photography that really makes it for me.

Recent favourite: Roadtripping Iceland provides an introduction to cycle touring the backroads of Iceland.

While Out Riding: Cass Gilbert’s online journal as he takes the road less travelled by fat bike.  Photography is enough to make you want to jump on the next plane to Bolivia/Patagonia/Columbia.

Recent favourite: Mongolia… coming soon

Bikepacking.com: website dedicated to the growing field of bikepacking. It’s the site’s route guides which are particularly enticing providing you with the why and how for planning your next expedition.

Recent favourite: Bikerafting Alaska’s Lost Coast, Yakutat-Glacier Bay.

Let me know if you think there’s other blogs and websites you think I should be adding to the list.

The featured image is an Alexey Luka mural in Košice, Slovakia

THOUGHT STARTERS: CONTENT THAT HAS GOT ME THINKING 11

Enders Analysis figures point to the increasingly important role of mobile as consumers onramp to the internet in the UK. Mobile apps apparently account for 4 in 5 of consumers mobile minutes.

UK average time spent online per month by device

Ofcom figures point to UK having the fastest broadband access among the big five economies of Europe. UK also has the highest broadband take-up (83%); highest proportion of people to have bought goods online over a year (77%); highest weekly usage of the internet (87%); and lowest proportion of people who have never used the internet (8%). Figures aren’t always so flattering when comparisons include the Nordics and Denmark.

Mathilde Collin provides a valuable look at where email is and isn’t relevant within organisational communications on the Intercom blog.

The Unbundling of Email at Work

Venture capitalist Chris Dixon looks at where we’re seeing innovation and startups in the Bitcoin sector.

The “outing” of Dorian Nakamoto as founder of Satoshi Nakamoto has prompted a whirlwind of press interest and some valuable analysis of the role of the media. Felix Salmon has used RapGenius as a novel means of analysing Dorian Nakamoto’s recent statement denying involvement whilst Mike Hearn gives a breakdown of some of the key holes in the Newsweek story.

Debate continues on the pros and cons of Google Glass. Among the range of opinions is Joe Schoech arguing that the product is poorly implemented whilst Mike Elgan argues that concerns about privacy are misplaced.

Nate Silver puts forward his agenda with the newly launched FiveThirtyEight data journalism platform which should  provide a valuable new voice to the media sector. Building on this is Ben Thompson looking at FiveThirtyEight’s launch in the context of an increasingly rich selection of journalism that’s available online:

No longer are my reading choices constrained by time and especially place. Why should I pick up the Wisconsin State Journal – or the Taipei Times – when I can read Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Bill Simmons, and the myriad other links served up by Twitter? I, and everyone else interested in news, politics, or sports, can read the best with less effort – and cost – than it ever took to read the merely average just a few short years ago.

The New Yorker profiles the shopping mall whose role in American society is beginning to fray in the face of  online competition  and consumers quest for a more authentic experience.

The malls are busy, well-tended, and vibrant, though they are still malls: a simulacrum of culture, in the same way that the Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is a representation of medieval life, without the chamber pots and periodic sieges.

Einar Öberg  has developed a website that provides you with the opportunity to turn your neighbourhood into an urban jungle.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 10.10.53The featured image is a Drew Tyndell, Ben Niznik and Derek Bruno mural from Living Walls and was found on Drew’s Flickr page.

 

THOUGHT STARTERS: CONTENT THAT HAS GOT ME THINKING 8

The following provides a roundup of some of the articles, thought pieces and content which have got me thinking recently.

The startup sector continues to get a lot of attention in the news media, positioning itself as an engine of innovation. A contrary view is given by Mariana Mazzucato in The Economist who points to mid and larger sized enterprises as being stronger drivers. Am not sure this gives a full reading of the situation, but its an important reminder that innovation isn’t monopolised by any one part of society.

Jana Mobile  point to various developing markets as evidence that Windows Phone has a potentially viable opportunity  as a third smartphone operating system. Beyond Devices takes a much more bearish view, pointing to the growing stranglehold that Android and iOS have over the smartphone market.

The challenge for new mobile operating systems

Zal Bilimoria suggests in re/code that we may be moving towards a post tablet world as consumers look to consolidate around PCs and phablets.  Too early to tell, but an interesting hypothesis.

It has been interesting watching the changing tone of conversation around Chromebooks as better hardware and improved web services make the platform ‘good enough’ for an increasingly large population of users. Cases in point are David Gewirtz’s recommendation for civilians and Andrew Cunningham’s more luke warm review for users with greater  technical requirements. TechWorld points out that Chromebook remains an outlier in the enterprise sector, but it is beginning to emerge as a realistic alternative for some.

WeAreSocial have released a valuable presentation looking at some of the key social and mobile metrics from Europe that goes well beyond  the EU5.

The appointment of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO and the emergence of Bill Gates from behind the curtains has prompted a lot of commentary on the company’s current fate. Tech.pinions is among the more positive commentators but a gloomier view is head by John Gruber (never a Microsoft fan at the best of times). It’s also worth reading Ben Thompson’s commentary on the reemergence of Bill Gates at Microsoft.

The media sector has taken a bit of beating lately with many organisations hit by declining print advertising and sales with online revenues failing to fill the gap. Marc Andreessen sees a rosier picture with plenty of opportunities with new business models emerging.

McDonald’s has taken a lot of flak over the years over the quality of its food. Given potential consumer misgivings, so it’s interesting to see McDonald’s adopt a more  transparent attitude towards the products it sells…definitely not something to file under food porn. More information over at AdWeek.

If you are in London this weekend and prepared to brave the gale force winds, Phlegm’s show at the Howard Griffin Gallery is well worth a look. The featured image at the top of the page comes from Marcus Peel’s photography of the show which can be found on Phlegm’s blog.

 

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 5

The following provides a roundup of articles and thought pieces which have got me thinking recently.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the declining reach of Facebook as the company increasingly takes on the role of toll gatherer for brands looking to reach their audiences. Being Practical looks at this phenomenon and warns people away from using it as a means of reaching their audience given the miserly 2% engagement rate.

Om Malik in his first for Fast Company writes about anticipatory computing, and how this is reshaping our relationship with technology.

In another piece from Om Malik, this time for GigaOm, he argues that 2013 has been a good year for technology (revelations about the NSA aside) in a retort to a recent article in The Atlantic.

BuzzFeed’s John Herrman looks at the growing dominance of Facebook and Google in our online lives and how this curtails our freedom and creates a subservient role for many other operators in the digital sector.

JWT provide their latest round up of trends to watch for in the coming year spanning from technology and media through to food and drinks.

Luke O’Neil takes a critical look at contemporary journalism which is increasingly driven by an accelerating news cycle. Understandably, this hasn’t helped the quality of news as editors feel the need to ‘publish or perish.’

Wall Street Journal’s Ethan Smith reports on the growth of streaming music services such as Spotify and argues that this is likely to lead to promote music with staying power.

Interesting article on The Awl on the rise and fall of Grunge typography. As we move towards a more mobile centric world, typography tends to follow function rather than form.

The Rise And Fall Of Grunge Typography
The Rise And Fall Of Grunge Typography

New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor looks at the effect technology is having on our interactions with our exes, with Facebook, Gchat, Snapchat and text messages all potentially complicating attempts to make a fresh start.

Emotient now provide analytics that can assess the emotional state of filmed audiences, providing brands with the opportunity to tailor their messaging to the mood state of their audiences.

New containers: A look at the growth of new formats in web journalism

The majority of news content we receive from mainstream news organisations comes in relatively standard containers supported by text, images and increasingly video content. The use of standard format by news organisations fits in with news organisation’s needs to deliver a constant stream of output and an attempt to keep consumers within their own ecosystem.

Typhoon Haiyan: UN launches $301m Philippines aid appeal, BBC News
Typhoon Haiyan: UN launches $301m Philippines aid appeal, BBC News

Recently we have seen a willingness on the part of a few news media organisations to experiment with different containers. The New York Times in particular is one of the pioneers with feature articles on a deadly avalanche, the neglected corners of Russia, race horse jockey Russell Baze, the fighting of wildfires and the geopolitics of the South China Sea. Other media outlets have engaged in similar efforts with leading examples including Rolling Stone on white hat hackers and the melting Greenland glaciers, the Guardian on the role of the NSA and a wildfire in Tasmania, Wired’s profile of Richard Branson, Grantland on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, ESPN’s profile of Dock Ellis, Seattle Times on ocean acidification, the NRC on the Kunsthal robbery and Pitchfork profiling Daft Punk.

Alaska Media Lab points to the use of larger images, parallax scrolling, full width pages, plentiful white space, video and scroll based events as being characteristic of these new forms.

But the new formats are as much about what has been left out. Content extraneous to the subject is typically removed including links to other content and in most cases advertising. This increases the impact of the story for readers and removes the temptation for viewers to browse to another story.

A Game of Shark and Minnow, New York Times
A Game of Shark and Minnow, New York Times

These stories though are not without their burdens. The pioneering nature of these formats mean that they typically require hosting outside media organisation’s traditional content management systems. The rich media content environment that makes many of these stories so compelling typically requires more resources from photographers, videographers, illustrators and web designers on top of the the usual diet of news reporters and editors.

The lack of links to unrelated content within the container raises the likelihood that consumers will navigate off site content when they have finished consuming the article. Finally the lack of advertising means that these containers don’t currently present a viable business model, particularly when weighed against the costs of their production.

Hopefully as these new containers become more commonplace, we will see media organisations find ways of making them pay without undoing the features that make them so attractive for the readers.

What’s happening to our newspapers…A look at the changing position of newspapers in our media landscape.

The newspaper sector is facing something of a cross roads with a general decline in readership and advertising revenues for print publications. The internet is providing a valuable alternative distribution channel to print, particularly as smartphones and tablets find themselves increasingly in the hands of UK consumers. Media Consumer Survey 2013: Love in a cold climate, Deloitte, 2013 The web though provides a mixed story on whether online advertising revenues will fill the hole. News outlets can no longer rely on their role as curator of users view on the world as consumers turn to social media and an array of services such as Flipboard and Zite to navigate around what might be important to them. This change has the potential to lead to a decrease in web traffic for the newspaper websites and also arguably increases the leverage of high profile journalists who have less need for the prestige of a newspaper byline (see the recent departure of Walter Mossberg and David Pogue as a litmus test of sorts). But all is far from lost for our traditional providers of news who aren’t simply standing still. The Daily Mail and The Guardian are both interesting examples of news organisations that are adapting to the digital age. Both organisations are embracing audiences beyond those reachable by their printing presses and have adapted their newsrooms to the always on news cycle. Results from Guardian News and Media (the Guardian and Observer’s publisher) point to an increase in online revenues that counterbalances the decline in print revenues, providing some vindication of the organisation’s digital-first strategy announced in 2011. Reassuring news, given the important role the Guardian and other newspapers have played in raising the profile of important societal to the society we live in.