Archive for November, 2006
November 30th, 2006
Following the ‘Online video takes a bite out of TV‘ post on Monday, I was interested to read Rick Wray’s piece on Ofcom’s first major international survey of communications trends, featured on Guardian Unlimited today.
Ofcoms’ figures are similar to the ICM survey for the BBC, confirming; a third of British internet users watch less television once they have broadband, and 27% read fewer national newspapers.
The research also confirms we pay less for mobile phone, TV and internet services in the UK than our friends in Europe and the US.
Ofcom’s research goes beyond Europe, considering territories such as China, Japan and the US. China in particular offers some interesting stats, for example:
- Broadband penetration in China is running at just 12% but the overall market is massive. There are 43m Chinese households online, nearly twice the size of the entire UK market.
- China’s broadband users are more willing to embrace new technologies and services than people in Europe, the US and Japan
This shouldn’t be all doom and gloom for TV and newspapers, of course things are going to change, we’ve been discussing and predicting that for years.
Both mediums are beginning to integrate with the internet and those that accepted the web early as a partner rather than a competitor, are already reaping the rewards.
The bottom line is all types of communications need to evolve to survive and ultimately there will be casualties, but if our consumption of, and access to, information is rising surely we are doing the right thing.
November 29th, 2006
BT’s next-generation communications network, that will replace the copper wires that we’ve lived with for the past 100+ years, was debuted in the Welsh village of Wick yesterday.
BT has a habit of picking unlikely places for its technology trials. Read more about the first IP phone call made across the 21CN network between an 11-year-old resident and a bishop on ZDNet UK.
The network upgrade will cost around Â£10bn, and the completion date is been extended to 2011 after BT admitted that the programme should have taken 10 years.
November 27th, 2006
According to an ICM survey for the BBC, online video viewing is beginning to reflect negatively on TV viewing habits.
To be precise, the survey confirms 43% of Britons who watch online video (via internet or mobile devices) at least once a week, watch less traditional TV as a result.
The survey also points out that online and mobile viewing is on the increase with 75% of users saying they now watched more than they did a year ago.
Makes sense so far…
However, these viewers are stuck in the minority, with just 9% of the sample saying they view online video regularly.
- 13% said they watched occasionally
- 10% expect to start within a year
- Two-thirds did not watch online and did not expect to start doing so over the next 12 months
This trend is linked to age, confirming online video remains most popular with younger age groups.
On the face of it the lack of take up is disappointing, but the figures are sure to change as traditional TV pushes more content online, which will in turn push the traditional viewer online.
I expect to see online video increase in popularity regardless of age, just as the popularity of social networking has crossed the age divide.
November 24th, 2006
Dubbed a “a technicolor cacophony of weirdness from the internet” by the UKTV press office, the programme promises to be a fusion of user-generated video and the most popular viral content from the web. For a sneek preview of some of the first clips, check out the trailer on the UKTV site.
It had to happen. In the same way that online advertisers are trying to reap the benefits of social media and viral content, broadcasters are similarly looking to try their luck.
Taking viral video to the TV will open up a wider mainstream audience for advertisers to reach, and so it will be interesting to see how commercial this venture becomes. To stay true to its roots, its user-generated video will need to outweigh its commercially produced viral video.
However, saying that, I found out yesterday from an expert at Spannerworks that when you type ‘advert’ into Google, the second natural search result links to the Sony Bravia advert. So if you ever doubted the popularity of commercial viral video, that says it all!
November 22nd, 2006
According to the latest US research from Pew Internet & American Life project just 1% of Internet users download podcasts on a daily basis.
However, 12% of Internet users confirmed they had downloaded a podcast at least once, a decent improvement on April’s survey, which showed a 7% usage.
The survey includes a whole host of stats on podcasts, as overviewed below (thanks to Barrons Online for the list), showing age is not a factor, nor is income, but if you are male and have been using the Internet for more than three years you are more likely to download podcasts.
- Roughly 15% of Internet men have downloaded a podcast, versus 8% of Internet women.
- Long-time Internet users (online six years) are more than twice as likely to download podcasts than those online three years or less- 13% and 6% respectively.
- Age is not a factor: 14% of those 18-29 have downloaded a podcasts, versus 12% of 30-49 year-olds, and 12% of 50-64 year olds. The total drops to 4% for the 65+ group.
- Podcasts user span income groups: 12% of those in householders with under $30,000 in income, 13% for those with income of $75,000 or more; and similar numbers for those in between – 14% in the $30,000 to $49,999 group, and 12% in the $50,000 to $74,999 group.
- There are plenty of choices: The survey says there were under 1,000 podcasts to choose from on the podcast directory site Podcast alley in November 2004, compared with 26,000 podcasts and more than 1 million episodes now.
So what are we to read into these figures? Other than podcasts are on the rise, if still at an early phase and not yet widely used daily.
It seems Podcasts have managed to cross the economic and age divide, a recognised achievement of social media and a positive reflection on access to information via the web.
November 21st, 2006
This may seem like an obvious point, and I’m sure others have made it before me, but should social-networking sites come attached with a health warning against posting content that you may look back on and regret in a few years time?
The issue was brought to my attention by a high-profile internet safety expert (I’m not sure if he’d like to be named), who is concerned that teenagers posting revealing personal information about themselves on social networks such as MySpace and Bebo now, will live to regret it further down the line when they come to apply for their first full-time jobs etc.
In many ways it’s a similar dilemma to getting a tattoo. It may be a fun thing to do at the time when you’re young and care-free, but will it still be cool to your blue-chip employer in five years time?
After years of working in the Internet industry, I’m still not entirely sure of the technicalities surrounding log files etc, but as I understand it, the majority of internet content is always retrievable. This means that the personal spaces of teenagers today will remain searchable for years to come – something that they might not be considering now.
I am sure employers are already using social-networking sites to carry out background checks on potential employees – this is nothing new. But it will be interesting to see if this becomes a bigger differentiator in the future.
November 20th, 2006
The IMRG believes sales online will total Â£42bn in 2007 compared with Â£30bn this year. That’s an increase of 40%, directly linked to the growth in broadband and continued faith in online retail.
James Roper, the chief executive of IMRG, commented: “More consumers are getting broadband. It is huge. When people have broadband they shop online, it is as simple as that. And the supply side from retailers is really just starting.â€
October was the biggest ever month for online sales, according to the IMRG, with shoppers spending Â£2.7bn – up Â£250,000 on the previous record month, December 2005.
December 2006 is expected to break October’s record with a total sales figure around the Â£3.5bn mark.
November 17th, 2006
The answer has to be yes, but when? When will we see a usable version of the mobile Internet available to everyone?
Well, 3 thinks it has the answer with the launch of the X-Series, which incorporates partnerships with Internet pioneers such as Skype, Google and eBay.
3 say users will be able to make free Internet phone calls, watch their home television on their phone and tap into their home computers on the move via mobile broadband service.
The price for all these services will be a flat-rate monthly fee.
Hang on, that makes sense! Could this be the beginning of a new era in mobile Internet services?
We all remember the Anthill mob-like scramble for 3G licenses and the resulting void in successful services and profits alike. So what did turn consumers off originally? Well, take your choice:
- Mobiles didn’t delivered the characteristics of a web device
- Consumers weren’t willing to pay extra for a web device
- WAP – say no more
- Accessibility – many web sites aren’t set up for simple mobile browsing
- Frustration trying to get online
- Broken promises/over hype
- Mistrust of the operators due to the above
The list goes on, but the frustrating part is it can be done. A decent 3G device with built-in web browser to match can deliver a good Internet service, but that doesn’t mean the mobile Internet works. It just means those with the knowledge, funds and patience can get a reasonable service.
‘What about .mobi!’ I hear you cry, which promises mobile device users a better, more reliable Internet experience via sites ending with a .mobi domain. These sites are designed specifically for the smaller screens and other restraints of handsets.
Great, an excellent idea, but there is a suggestion that this development, although useful, is too late to capture the technical innovation on the web.
If the mobile Internet is to be seen as a success it needs to move beyond the few and provide a service for the masses. This maybe where it went wrong in the first instance, as the masses weren’t ready for it, but it is a different proposition today.
So back to 3′s new service, they say:â€œWhy should you pay per minute, per message, per click, per megabit? In the real world, you buy your PC, pay for broadband and thatâ€™s it. Our principle is simple â€“ X-Series customers will only pay a flat access fee on top of their basic subscription and then whatâ€™s free to use on the Internet should be free to use on mobile broadbandâ€.
Hear, hear – let’s hope it works!
It will be interesting to get the first batch of consumer feedback on 3′s service and see how competitors react.
November 16th, 2006
I had hoped to make this post yesterday before the news broke nationally that online bank First Direct was to begin charging customers Â£10 a month for the priviledge of holding a current account with them.
I received my written notification yesterday in a letter which, I’d hastily like to add, looked much like circular spam. I almost binned it, but luckily cast my eyes to the second half of the letter where it warned that from 1 February 2007, I’ll need to pay a balance of Â£1,500 per month into this account, or be charged a banking fee of Â£10 a month.
Not only was I shocked at being told how I should use my current account i.e for salary payment, but I was also extremely disappointed that an internet bank should be the first to test the water with paid-for banking.
I appreciate there is a cost to the bank for running an account, but with such marginal interest rates offered to the customer and its reduced overheads through being an online bank, I do not think this cost can be justified in the UK at the moment.
As an ex-new media journalist, I’ve written countless stories about the future of free online banking, versus the likelihood of high street banks having to charge for their services in the long-run. But never did I expect an internet bank to be the first to take the plunge.
I’m not a finance expert, and since the news broke, many have heralded this as the beginning of the end to free banking in Britain. But the message this sends to online banking newbies is unfortunate, and it comes at a time when stories of online banking security breaches have once again hit the headlines.
Some serious crisis management is called for by First Direct, as I am yet to see a satisfactory public response from them. If this letter is the only form of explanation I’m to receive, I’m on the lookout for a new current account!
November 15th, 2006
Imagine a time when the Internet is regulated by the Government. This is exactly what the EU recommended under a clause in the updated European media regulation directive – TV Without Frontiers (TVWF), now renamed as the Audio-Visual Services Directive.
According to ZDNet UK we have Ofcom to thank for saving us from what could have seen the web wrapped in stifling red tape.
Culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, supported Ofcom, arguing that the plan was unworkable and would reduce creativity and investment in new media across Europe.
In the piece, an Ofcom spokesperson said:”The original proposals were flawed â€” they suggested regulations for all visual media services. Effectively we were being asked to regulate everything from Channel 4 right down to video blogs. There was a distinct lack of clarity in the proposals.”
Ofcom said it “pointed out this was not a good idea, and not achievable in practice. If we were expected to regulate websites, we would go from regulating a few hundred organisations to a regime where we would regulate hundreds of thousands of ordinary people”.
It’s far from over though. The new Audio-Visual Services Directive is yet to have its first reading or be ratified, so the final outcome is not settled.
The pressure is on, the EU must find an agreement to allow continued evolution of the web, whilst protecting against less desirable content.
The European Parliament will take a final vote in December, which will see the agreed directive adopted by the European Union in 2007.