Archive for the ‘News’ Category
July 23rd, 2012
Bradley Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France is the new brand for a revolution in professional cycling.
He has, at a (pedal) stroke, reset the Tour clock to zero. From now, pro road racing – that most benighted of athletic trades â€“ will take its rightful place at the apex of sport. And the Tour de France will be at the forefront.
At the core of this revolution is the emotive word â€œcleanâ€.
Around 3.6 million people in the UK watched his ride into Paris yesterday (Sunday 22nd July) on ITV and ITV4 and many others were watching on Eurosport â€“ a very healthy number of eyeballs, given pro cyclingâ€™s tortured history.
You’ll know by now that Bradley Wiggins is the first pro cyclist from the UK to win the Tour de France butÂ Iâ€™m not sure whether everyone watching Bradley (@bradwiggins) understood exactly how unbelievably awesome his Tour de France performance was. Not sure if I do fully yet. I think he does, though!
I have seen some truly majestic battles in this hardest of all professional sports events since I first watched it on Channel 4 in 1987, when Stephen Roche rode the race of his life and we saw the epic finish of Stage 21 at La Plagne, which effectively won him the Tour, psychologically battering his main opponent Pedro Delgado.
In 1989, I was in France to watch Greg LeMond beat the late Laurent Fignon by eight seconds to win the TdF for a second time, less than two years after he nearly died in a hunting accident in the US.
In 1990, I covered the final time trial, which sealed LeMondâ€™s third Tour victory, for The Observer newspaper (if I do nothing else, I will die a happy man ).
Yet Bradleyâ€™s 2012 ride was so much better in every respect than these astonishing wins and will, in my humble opinion, never be bettered.
Because the taint of doping that has followed pro cycling around like familiar bad smell (think old wet dog) is finally gone. Itâ€™s been â€˜bradleydâ€™.
I always thought that UK pro cycling, shattered by Tom Simpsonâ€™s drug-associated death on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, was thereafter assigned the cultural role by journalists and some publics of providing a perfect example of what happens when you let working-class people loose in sport and offer them good money to cheat.
But from my time in sports journalism and following and loving sport for nearly 50 years, I know that pro cycling has not been alone in the doping derby.
To take one personal example – a very good friend, a female discus thrower who was UK national standard, was told by her coach in 1979 that for her to compete at international level she would have to take â€œperformance-enhancingâ€ drugs. But he said he would not want to be her coach if that happened. She quit.
Over the years Iâ€™ve heard numberless accounts of the penetration of doping culture into most sports, attendant to the professionalisation of these activities. Cycling was the only sport I saw being systematically branded as â€œuncleanâ€.
I am sure that Bradley Wigginsâ€™ Tour de France win will see a deep, lasting cultural change in attitudes to cycling. We are witness to the Birth of the Clean Age. Because of that, Bradley is the hottest property in professional sport.
In brand marketing terms, Bradley Wiggins is a new, unique form. John Reynolds over at Marketing magazine reports that Wiggoâ€™s commercial off-track earnings value would be around Â£5 million. If you trebled that, you might be getting close. Long live Wiggo. Long live Clean.
July 6th, 2012
If you took a guess at which media segment was the fastest growing in terms of piracy in the UK, the most likely response would be music. However, according to a report commissioned by Google and Performing Right Society for Music (PRS), unauthorised live TV streams are actually the biggest form of web piracy in the UK, and the fastest growing.
The report, conducted by BAE Systems Detica, confirms that in the last year alone, illegitimate live TV streaming has risen by 61 per cent with just over half of the sites examined as part of the research offering links to live TV streams.
BAE Systems Detica identified six distinct business models behind online copyright infringement, with each one having clear commercial purposes. The other segments include; the P2P Community; Subscription Community; Music Transaction; Rewarded Freemium and Embedded Streaming.
Of the 51 sites reviewed, each providing or linking to illegal streams of television content, both free-to-air and paid, 33% are based in the United States and two-thirds are ad-supported.
Most visitors come to these sites directly or through referrals from social networks, and unsurprisingly Premier League football streams seem to be driving this growth, prompting the Football Association to get involved in the research by providing a list of sites it suspects of infringement.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), PRS for Music, Publishers Association and UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) also provided suspects for the examination.
Google’s Theo Bertram, a former Downing Street adviser, commented: “Our research shows there are many different business models for online infringement which can be tackled if we work together.
“The evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to do this is to follow the money, targeting the advertisers who choose to make money from these sites and working with payment providers to ensure they know where their services are being used.”
August 12th, 2011
McKinsey has just published a fulsome research document â€“ â€œMeasuring the Value of Searchâ€ â€“ and in its 52 pages, the study seeks to move towards a measured understanding of the economic value of Search.
The fact that the company has assigned seven associates within the McKinsey Global Institute to research, develop and deliver this detailed report speaks volumes â€“ perhaps a final step in the migration of Search from voodoo tech periphery to central board-level acceptance.
The C-level executives want to know whatâ€™s going on with Search because they have one eye on the bottom line and McKinsey is precise, delivering the descriptive value answers for a full range of sectors, enough to convince while leaving space for further queries.
The value descriptions and supporting evidence are truly impressive and please donâ€™t stop reading just because the UK didnâ€™t make the final country list (Brazil, France, Germany, India, and the United States). Thereâ€™s a wealth of information that we can learn from these economies. Iâ€™ll use dollars as currency mark for this post.
Youâ€™d need to register to get the full report â€“ worth it. The team has contributed in great detail to our understanding of the economic value of search.
The McKinsey team (Jacques Bughin, Laura Corb, James Manyika, Olivia Nottebohm, Michael Chui, Borja de Muller Barbat and Remi Said) use country-level analysis as a base. The team estimates that the total gross value of Internet search across the global economy was $780 billion in 2009, equivalent to the GDP of the Netherlands or Turkey.
They suggest that, using this this estimate, each search is worth about $0.50.
The team report that $540 billion (69 per cent), around 25 times the annual value added (profits) of search companies, flowed directly to global GDP through e-commerce, advertising revenues and higher corporate productivity.
The McKinsey team puts out a peach of a statistic for the remaining $240 billion (31 per cent), which does not show up in GDP statistics; rather it is captured by individuals through consumer surplus, from unmeasured benefits, such as lower prices, convenience and the time saved by swift access to information.
The team believes that these economic benefits are valued at around $20 a month for consumers in France, Germany, and the United States and at $2 to $5 a month for their counterparts in Brazil and India.
In retail sectors, the McKinsey team estimate that the value of search in 2009 equalled 2 per cent of total annual revenues in developed nations and 1 per cent in the developing countries researched. This value flowed directly from online shopping and online research that led to an in-store sale. US retailers saw as much as $67 billion in search-related revenues, Brazilâ€™s retailers as much as $2.4 billion.
Another top statistic: knowledge workers in the countries researched experienced search-related productivity gains of up to $117 billion, flowing from faster and more accurate access to information.
The team identified emerging sources of search-related value, including the rise of new niche (or â€œlong tailâ€) retailing, as search techniques help consumers access ever-narrower product segments and new business models respond to consumers who search through their mobile devices.
The predictive element of the study is brief and understandable, given the educative nature of the document and its intended audience. I often forget, working the febrile world of social media and PR, that time is relative. With that in mind, the report cautions us that Search is â€œat an early stage of its evolutionâ€, just 20 years in age. Thereâ€™s much more to do.
And I respect the teamâ€™s view on the future because, well, it just seems coolly analysed and right for the audience it wants to address. The report advises: â€œSearch technology will need to develop to keep pace with what it has helped unleash, namely, a fast-growing volume of online content: one study estimated that the amount of digital information will grow a factor of 44 from 2009 to 2020.â€
That’s a wake-up call for corporates. To survive, they will need to have Search in their bones and understand every element, from SEO value and measurement through to mobile dominance, social web and search, curation and beyond. Slow is not an option.
Meanwhile, we live and die, relatively, by the rule of measurement and the McKinsey team has given us a wealth of useful data for free, which is a damn fine thing.
So please donâ€™t think Iâ€™m being churlish but Iâ€™d really like to know how McKinsey sets up its SEO. I ran a range of terms on Google and this important data was invisible apart from the direct request â€œMeasuring the Value of Searchâ€. Maybe the company does not want to share its knowledge globally, content to share in a strange close garden.
But if it believes in the data from its research team, surely it would want to at least dance with Search â€“ and measure the benefits; talking and walking.
July 30th, 2011
I do like the idea behind Scoop.it a multimedia content curation publication platform currently in beta. Its introductory video also shows once again the power of the medium to explain concepts and market new companies.
Scoop.it turns everyone into editors/curators, slashing the time needed to create a useful, relevant web page resource. You donâ€™t even need to tear your hair out writing blog texts about your favourite ideas and things or area of expertise, just choose, edit if needed and publish.
Here’s the intro video:
The publication platform then allows users to this content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as blogs like WordPress and Tumblr.
Scoop.it has just launched a Developer Challenge for software developers to create iPhone, Android, and iPad applications. Thereâ€™s a $1,000 waiting for the winner or an HTC Desire S phone for the runner-up.
Developers need to submit their app before Thursday September 15th and Scoop.it has released its API. Applications will be judged upon stability, originality, quality and effectiveness.
The applications must be equally useful for the curation of as well as the exploration of topics.
The winners will be announced on Wednesday September 28th. For record, neither Liberate Media nor me are commercially involved with Scoop.it. Best of luck!
May 13th, 2011
Today maybe Friday 13th, but yesterday marked the realisation of a nightmare scenario for Facebook, when news broke that it had hired a PR agency to plant negative stories about its big rival Google.
The stories specifically related to a privacy issue surrounding the Google Social Circle tool, which allows Gmail users to see information about their friends and friends of friends.
Dan Lyons at The Daily Beast broke the story yesterday (May 12th), and it has been growing ever since. If you’re not familiar with Lyons, he spent 10 years at Forbes and is now technology editor at Newsweek and the creator of Fake Steve Jobs.
He confirmed: “For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
“The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.” See the emails here which included this pitch from Burson: “The American people must be made aware of the now immediate intrusions into their deeply personal lives Google is cataloging and broadcasting every minute of every day-without their permission.”
The Daily Beast story confirmed the client was Facebook, and Burson-Marsteller was seeding the story that Google Social Circle was “designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users-in a direct and flagrant violation of Google’s agreement with the FTC.”
Facebook has since admitted it, citing two reasons: “First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.”
Let’s leave to one side claims of data ownership from Facebook, and focus on what exactly Facebook was trying to achieve.
If the key objective of the campaign was to spread anti-Google stories and highlight that Google was violating user privacy, surely the campaign has in fact achieved exactly the opposite.
I would also have hoped that these sorts of tactics, which certainly go on, would not have been necessary for such a young and progressive organisation that should have learnt from mistakes of corporate comms of a by-gone era.
Even if we remove the ethical issue for a moment, the alarm bells should still have been ringing when this campaign was discussed. Whether this idea originated from Facebook or the agency, the potential negatives vastly outweigh the potential positives, and someone must have said â€˜what if this gets out?’ After all, in the socially-connected world we live in, it was always going to be a big possibility.
As Facebook wakes up to its Friday 13th PR nightmare, and the ongoing fallout, what does this mean for the rest of us? Is it an insight into the long-brewing hostilities between the two biggest boys on the digital block? Is it a pre-emptive strike by Facebook as it knows Google is focused on the social networking space? Is Facebook right in its accusations?
The truth is none of these points really matter in the near future as Facebook has managed to put the negative spotlight on itself and destroy any platform it may have been trying to build by approaching a delicate issue with a poorly judged bully-boy tactic.
I’m sure Google isn’t totally innocent, but by making the first public move, Facebook has given itself a mountain to climb.
Read more at:
December 20th, 2010
Every so often, one of the good guys turns up to fight for whatâ€™s right and true in this bank-distorted, greed-obsessed and blood-sucking world.
Al Franken is US senator and he has been fighting against the slavering tech companies in that benighted country who have, almost since the internet became a commercial proposition in 1993, sought to corrupt the idea of a free-flowing global information network.
These companies, of which AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Wireless are current prime examples, want to create new revenue streams by creating tiers of internet data streams, allowing companies to buy visibility and dominance. The price they expect to pay is very high in monetary terms. The price we will pay is the end of the internet.
Make no mistake, if the US Federal Communications Commission does not annihilate the threat of a tiered internet tomorrow (Tuesday, December 21st) when it meets to discuss â€œnet neutralityâ€, then we can kiss goodbye to the internet.
What worries me is that the FCC has been taking seriously the views of the companies who stand to gain massively from the introduction of rules allowing a tiered internet. Indeed they have actively sought these views, which is a matter of great concern.
The FCC chairman Julias Genachowski’s draft Order has not been made public but early reports make clear that it falls far short of protecting net neutrality.
President Obama is on record in giving his unqualified support for net neutrality:
The free marketeers, God Bless â€˜Em, are also on the side of all that is good and true. Witness thisÂ MSNBC Cenk Rant: Internet Freedom In Danger. Rant it might be but for once, he makes sense:
So, whatâ€™s to worry? Well, Al Franken is and therefore so am I. The FCC could change the world tomorrow. And remember, itâ€™s not just the US â€“ the virus of tiered internet will spread, if we do not stop it here, right now.
December 2nd, 2010
We usually have a rule at Liberate Media blog-HQ â€“ write about anything relevant, but avoid the client sell. Iâ€™ve talked with the team about this today and weâ€™re agreed that, for this one time only, I can write about something that is close to my heart and which should make a big difference – and happens to be a client.
I hope youâ€™ll forgive me for this, but I think that WYGU (or When You Grow Up) will fundamentally change the way we discover what we want to do in our lives. For the first time effectively, people of all ages can understand the jobs they are best suited to. WYGU can reinforce their vocational aspirations. It can guide, inspire and connect.
WYGU (pronounced â€˜wigguâ€™) is a new form of social network. It has a purpose beyond friendliness and connection. The WYGU idea is Alun Bakerâ€™s, a successful businessman from Wales, who had a simple idea to improve the way we develop our careers and acted on it.
Alun has spent his own money, and raised difficult investment, to develop the WYGU platform. Itâ€™s basically a â€œFacebook for careers adviceâ€ and we most definitely need it now more than ever, given the cuts in state careers advice provision and the failings of careers advice in schools, colleges and universities.
Whatâ€™s more, itâ€™s free to use.
WYGU has now launched and today we have a much better way of finding out what we want to do in our working lives, which after all shapes so much of our personal lives. Please check out what Jemima Kiss at the Guardian had to say, and listen to Alunâ€™s recent appearance on Radio 4 You & Yours consumer programme to find out more. Alun’s interview is also at:Â wygu-alun-baker-radio-4-you-and-yours-interview
The team at Liberate has already signed up as mentors and weâ€™re looking forward to giving something back. As Alun says, to make a change you have to take Personal Social Responsibility.
Iâ€™ll shut up now but do look at the wonderful video created by Nonsense for WYGU that explains it all and also the expressions of support from people like broadcaster Andy Townsend, and if you feel like you would benefit from careers advice, or can offer it, please sign up. After that you can also try the excellent and unique WYGU careers matching engine to appreciate what type of career you could be suited to.
Let us know what you think.
July 15th, 2010
The BBCâ€™s You & Yours consumer affairs programme has just covered research findings by our client, the search and social conversion agency Tamar. The patient process involved in getting that five-minute interview with Winifred Robinson (my vote for radio Voice of the Year) was another reminder of how much respect the Beeb has for its listeners.
I began talking to the producer/reporter Kevin Mousley months ago about the YouGov survey commissioned annually by Tamar â€“ Search Attitudes. Kevin is a straight up professional who does not waste your time or his so the fact that we were able to continue the discussions was a big bonus for me.
Kevin prised apart the data, reworked the ideas and came back several times with detailed, probing questions about the value, relevance and legitimacy of the Search Attitudes series, as well as the current study. He then worked on the detailed outline script, which was revised and assessed by his team before discussing the question-set and interview flow with Neil Jackson, Tamarâ€™s Search Strategy Director.
Kevin then arranged for studio time in London so that Neil could be interviewed by Winifred via direct link to the Manchester studio where You & Yours was being produced.
Put that all together and weâ€™re looking at least a couple of daysâ€™ work, for five-minutes of focussed Radio 4 airtime. I was mightily impressed!
September 15th, 2009
Two articles in the Observer this weekend about history and the way we think now were more than a little chilling. Polly Curtis writes that thousands of UK pupils are being allowed to drop history at the age of 13 and three out of 10 schools no longer teach it as a standalone subject.
Tim Adams tells us in the same issue that in all fields of arts, there is a growing reluctance to engage with the present and instead to escape into the past.
To me, thereâ€™s a pristine contradiction apparent here. On the one hand, we seem to be accepting that history is not absolutely essential as a field of study that all children should be encouraged to play in â€“ one that feeds creativity in so many different ways and encourages (if taught well) inquisitive, enthusiastic and balanced ways of thinking.
On the other hand, we fear the chaotic present and seek solace in an aesthetic that feeds on the past, a conditional and partial view that does not bear rational historical inquiry. Retro can be playful, but itâ€™s rarely executed with any innovative style and induces a profound sense of dislocation because itâ€™s not what we are. I feel repulsed by the Beatles computer game and the disinterment of the back catalogue because it does not inform my present in new ways.
But that does not mean that I find the past repulsive, quite the opposite. Learning new things about the past and knowing how to work with that information is a skill I was taught with great passion at school (thanks Mr Steynor) and has stayed with me ever since. It gives me a grounding, a tool for measurement and analysis, and a sense of time and place.
We could forget to teach classical and medieval history â€“ maybe that would not matter so much. But to ignore the study of the richest period of all time â€“ that embraced by modern history â€“ is beyond belief. The past century has surely been the most profound and creative period in recorded history, with so many new forms of creativity and questionable aesthetics to be debated and enjoyed. We should also be bearing witness to the degradations of extreme politics and economics â€“ and remembering the lessons from those appalling experiments.
Our digital economy depends on truly creative stimulus â€“ and in this process, the fission and fusion from the study of history that feeds minds is absolutely necessary.
Actually, Will Hutton in the same edition of the Observer makes a passing point in his bravura defence of the rightness of having a huge national debt with a comment on the fact that the UK is catching up with competitors in innovation. While his main point was about science, the argument should be extended to include the arts. And history is a fine balance between both. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s worth teaching.
March 23rd, 2009
Iâ€™ve just had to pinch myself very hard â€¦ on hearing that sci-fi virtual world environment Entropia Universe has been granted a banking licence.
The gameâ€™s developer, MindArk, has received preliminary approval from Finansinspektionen, the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority which allows the companyâ€™s Mind Bank, which serves as a central bank for all of the different virtual worlds within the Entropia Universe, to function fully as a commercial bank.
Entropia Universe has a cash-based economy and players can exchange real money for game currency at an exchange rate of 10:1 (ten in-game dollars to one US dollar). Last year, the virtual economy generated nearly Â£290 million across hundreds of worlds on Entropia.
Itâ€™s an extraordinary time to be launching any new banking institution, let alone one that is virtual and real – at the same time. This conjunction is slightly bewildering and leaves me feeling more than a little dizzy. In one respect, itâ€™s not that much more different than any online banking offering, but in another itâ€™s very weird indeed, in that the goods and services being bought and sold are just code – zeros and ones. They exist virtually – and in transaction records.
Deposits made into the Entropia central bank will be under strict European banking regulation with continuous monitoring and audit by financial authorities. Customers will be backed by Sweden’s Â£41,000 deposit insurance and the Mind Bank will offer interest-bearing accounts have direct deposit options and let players pay bills online. The company will also be able to offer loans to customers and issue bank cards.
Iâ€™m not suggesting that there is anything amiss here, simply that a financial institution supporting economies that work in the virtual space is a little mind-boggling.
But I suppose that when players can reverse out of an in-game economy and exchange their virtual wealth for cash in the real world, the threat of inflation from lack of controls is present â€“ but maybe not as much as in hermetically sealed virtual worlds, where weâ€™ve seen hyper-inflation and serious economic malpractice by players. MindArk believes the bank will help to control inflation by regulating the economy.
I hope the instruments they use will be more acutely tuned to the changing needs of the economy than those weâ€™ve seen deployed in the real crunched up world. Itâ€™s good to know that while Sweden is in recession too, the countryâ€™s banking system and financial leaders are considered very sound. President Obama cites Sweden as a potential model for resolving the current banking crisis, based on its highly successful handling of the previous crisis in the early 1990s.
If Mind Bank replicates the sound financial judgements that have helped to keep the Swedish banking system away from the worst excesses weâ€™ve watched unravel, then Entropia should be a sound investment environment – certainly more appealing than the current crop of banks.
And it also underlines again for us in PR the need to keep pace with the rapidly maturing and economically significant virtual spaces where people will be buying, selling, investing and engaging.Â