Posts Tagged ‘iPad’

taptuOld media companies still haven’t grasped that they’re going to have to forge new alliances and collaborate with once bitter rivals if they’re to survive and thrive.

Newspapers and broadcasters have always operated as walled gardens and the model has served them so well that some have come to think they have a right to exist, or that brand loyalty will see them through, or that an iPhone or iPad app will pull the fat from the fire.

   Technology is taking us into the media equivalent of fantasy football where readers can pick and choose their favourite columnists and commentators, mix and match the organizations that serve them, and all while letting their social networks do the heavy lifting by filtering the tide of new information.

In this world aggregators like Taptu, Flipboard Pulse and Zite take different approaches but they all have one thing in common, they break the boundaries that organizations put up between their content and their competitors.

Taptu talks about DJ-ing the news and mixing streams to curate them exactly as you want, by organization, or topic, or special interest.

For those who don’t want to invest the time or effort in doing this then the social graph that connects them with what friends and peers are reading, or watching, or finding interesting, is less taxing.

Is it too fanciful to think that ‘old media’ moguls might join forces to aggregate their own content on a shared platform rather than relying on third parties to do the job?  Perhaps it is, but as things stand they’re losing out.

Frederic Filoux makes the point that they’re not getting audience data from those third parties and it’s the rich learning mined from understanding new patterns of consumption that will be the foundation of future advertising models.

Getting media rivals to collaborate would be problematic, for sure.  Getting agreement on a format and ways to share and monetize material would be a Herculean task, no question. But not to even try would be foolhardy.

Flipboard has just picked up another $50m in venture capital funding; it’s lean (32 employees) it’s nimble, it’s single-minded and it’s tech savvy.

Against that, media businesses may harbor deep rivalries, but they also have rich content at local, national and international level and the potential to package their material in new ways that would better serve the audience and themselves if they could find a way to collaborate.

It’s worth remembering that before SMS became a multi-billion pound earner for mobile operators the business was Balkanised to the extent that messages couldn’t be sent to people outside individual networks.

It only took off when the restriction was removed and a business model was instituted that allowed rival operators to charge each other a small fee for passing messages to other networks.


News aggregators are becoming two-a-penny but I’m excited by the newest kid on the block, the Zite iPad mag that claims to get smarter as you use it.

I haven’t had lots of hands-on time but I’ve already found much to like and it holds out bags of promise.

Like Flipboard you can kickstart it with content from your social graph, in my case Twitter, and then access a Top Stories page with a more detailed section index down the right-hand side. For me this included Social media, Technology, iPhone, Journalism and Mobile.

It’s at story level where things start to get really interesting. Now the right-hand side becomes a personalisation column topped by a question: Did you enjoy reading this? And Yes/No buttons for the answer.  (The nomenclature may need adjusting; I don’t enjoy reading about the Holocaust but I do find it useful/valuable/insightful etc).

Below that there are options to get more articles from the site which originated the story, or more stories about elements within the text. In a feature on the future of social AR gaming for instance the metatags offered were Social Gaming, World of Warcraft, Virtual Reality and Dante’s Inferno.

For some this may be a descent into one of the circles of hell, ranking and rating is a chore but over time it’ll save time if you get a better, more relevant service.

The magic in the mix will be the delivery of stuff you didn’t know you were interested in – that you didn’t specifically ask for – which is a bit more difficult.

The brains behind Zite are researchers at British Columbia university’s computational intelligence lab and they’ve stitched together stats and semantics to try to crack that.

I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far and I’m already thinking this will supplant my use of and Flipboard.

It’s also likely to appeal to advertisers who are no longer entranced by overblown CPM metrics that drive the worst kind of click-whoring subject matter.

Now it’s about reaching the right eyeballs, not just any eyeballs, and a magazine that refreshes every half an hour and provides a tailored cut of content for every user will surely become a powerful new player.

oscarappThe sycophantic slush of another Oscars ceremony is already a fading memory but there are some learnings from ABC’s two-screen, Backstage Pass coverage that are worth further reflection.

The 99 cent app for iPhone and iPad users gave users access to live streams from more than 25 cameras dotted around LA’s Kodak Theatre – TV gallery-type command in the palm of your hand – plus access to additional content.

ABC’s acknowledgement of the multi-tasking tendencies of TV audiences allowed people to flit away from mainstream coverage to the likes of the unruly paparazzi cam, another one focused on famous faces and one on fashion.

Alessandra Stanley writing in the New York Times said the extra feeds gave viewers “an all-too-vivid look at how the air leaves the theater and the night starts to drag.” Miaow!

She was talking about how the streams showed winners celebrating backstage while TV was left with losers “smiling tightly through their rancour and disappointment”.

Sounds to me like TV had the best of that carve-up, but it depends whether schadenfreude or success is your preferred measure of enjoyment in such things.

Stanley also queried whether advertisers would be happy about a network inviting viewers to spend commercial breaks watching backstage camera shots of stars.

Probably not, but the world of advertising, like journalism, is having to react to profound change and the Superbowl has shown that compelling ads can hold and engage audiences if they’re good enough.

Update: The Chrysler Born of Fire ad featuring Eminem that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago has been seen 8.8m times on YouTube.

The benefit of a fully integrated two-screen production is that it keeps viewers tuned in rather than turning off or going elsewhere when the televised action flags.

Having more options shows the audience you’re working harder to give them a better experience, and it doesn’t have to be confined to big set-piece event like the Oscars.

Imagine, for instance, being able to rate in real-time the performance of panellists on Question Time via a second screen, to see the results on the TV, distinguishable by location, and then to share them with friends.

Imagine watching Click and at each mention of a device or a technology getting a back-catalogue of reviews, features and stories on your second screen.

And imagine news packages being amplified with information – the assumed knowledge the audience is expected to bring – because there simply isn’t time to recap everything in a two-minute piece: What’s a Green Paper? How is inflation measured? What is the Monetary Policy Committee and how does it work?

Now it’s true that all the information is already available on the web if you’re prepared to search. But this is about tethering, about extending the leanback ease of television to make extra material available without effort.

In this same vein, there’s a much bigger body of work being undertaken by colleagues over at BBC R&D which is set out here by Stephen Jolly.

Do read it; it holds clues to the future of television.

oscarsFor the past few days I’ve been watching the clock count down on ABC’s Oscars Backstage Pass app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod, with the promise that Sunday’s event will be “the most interactive Oscars ever.”

Billed as “the ultimate insider’s view of Hollywood’s biggest night“, it incorporates second screen viewing options by adding live camera streams controlled by the user and accessible while the broadcast plays out.

For UK audiences used to red button options or Sky’s tracker cam with alternate commentaries, it’s maybe not so new but it is evidence of a major broadcaster incorporating options for secondary activity and acknowledgement that giving more choice and control is a good thing.

Once the show is over you’re invited to go to the governor’s ball for “after party action”, though watching live as statues are engraved with winners’ names comes under Paint Drying Cam as far I’m concerned.

It’ll be interesting to see how social media is incorporated into the mix, if at all, since there’s no hint of that in the promo. Sharing the experience in a bigger conversation through everyone’s snarky comments, humour and opinion is often the best part.

The eccentric one-man-band that is Joseph Tame is taking outside broadcasting to a new level with his bizarre rig for the upcoming Tokyo Marathon.

As he runs the 26-mile course he’ll be live broadcasting on two cameras – one facing forward, one facing him – while at the same time transmitting live location, pace and heart-rate data via Runkeeper, as well as sampling pollution, humidity and noise levels.

His kit features an iPad strapped to his chest on which Twitter messages will be displayed, four iPhones and an Android device, plus three mobile wifi routers. A volunteer team of 15 will broadcast live from points along the route and all the material will be fed back to a studio for mixing and rebroadcasting via Ustream.

Joseph has a good track record in technological firsts having previously live-streamed himself climbing Mt Fuji.

You can listen to a primer on his marathon plans at 0300 Tues on Radio 5live or catch-up via the less chronologically challenging Outriders Podcast where he’s in conversation with my colleague Jamillah Knowles.


I didn’t get it when details were first being leaked and now the wraps are off Murdoch’s The Daily I still don’t.

If it wasn’t for the Digger’s very deep pockets and obvious enthusiasm for the iPad the plug would have been pulled long ago.

As former BBC tech editor Darren Waters put it in a Tweet: A newspaper on a connected device that updates once a day? What use is that to anyone?*

Ex-Guardianista Emily Bell weighed in with: Playing with The Daily. It doesn’t look like the future of newspapers, it doesn’t even look like the future of apps.

Now that’s a bit harsh. As an editorial product it’s a curate’s egg – but the good bits are good – though it dates horribly quickly.

It has strong imagery, including some dynamic 360-degree stuff, a nice gallery on the big US snowstorm, and an interesting light-and-shade mix of stories: The Battle for Cairo, a disco for dogs in New York, and a stated mission to campaign for improved schooling in the US.

Navigation is quirky with some elements requiring you to turn the iPad through 90 degrees to get the full benefit of the content and, as a colleague put it, there are times when you’re left stubbing the screen like a caveman because you’re not sure what’s linked and what’s not.

But leaving aside the editorial components, it’s the strategy behind The Daily that seems flawed to me.

It’s iPad only and, even though millions of iPads have been sold worldwide, it’s a niche device and will remain so amid an explosion of tablets in all shapes and sizes and at much lower price points.

Paid Content founder Rafat Ali Tweeted that, for him, if The Daily was to be read daily “it needs to be on the iPhone. As a commuter read, at least in NYC, NYT iPhone app is my subway paper.”

Here in London I never see people using iPads on the Tube. It’s portable but it’s not mobile and constant orientation changes to move through content isn’t an optimal interface when you’re strap-hanging.

I think The Daily is a Murdoch hobby project, a flag-waving device, and an attempt to prove that charging for content is a viable – but on a niche tablet that’s only getting updated once a day I wonder where he’s going with this?

For the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond it’s down the pan – but I suppose he would say that, wouldn’t he.

*Update: Launch editor Jesse Angelo said it would be possible to insert breaking news updates on The Daily, which begs the question, why wasn’t it done for the launch?

Another day…another attempt by a newspaper to reinvent itself.

This time it’s Swedish media group Bonnier, trying to imagine what a newspaper would be like if it had been invented in the age of tablets.

It’s all too easy to scoff and say it wouldn’t be a newspaper.

But for an industry transitioning from a rock to a hard place, holding on to familiarity is important.

You don’t want to scare off the existing readership while trying to woo a new audience. And you don’t want to cannibalize revenue by gaining in one platform at the expense of the other.

But I can’t help thinking that it’s the attachment to the past that is holding back the truly innovative approaches to future news delivery.

Perhaps that’s why all the major innovations we’ve seen in the past few years have been developed outside traditional journalism organisations.

Digital is laying waste to traditional forms of consumption, to business models and to ways of thinking.

Starting with a clean slate is what’s called for, not imitations of products made for a different age.

Industrialist Henry Ford understood this at an instinctive level and encapsulated it in a quote about the Model T: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

This isn’t meant to undermine attempts to understand a market, or to place future development in the sway of intuition or gut instinct.

But it does illustrate that there’s a gap between what the market provides, and is measurable, and what is wanted, though not voiced, at an aspirational level.

Why does any of this matter? How is it relevant to an organisation like the BBC that is still primarily a broadcast organisation?

It matters because the world of broadcasting will soon be feeling the same chill winds.

It won’t be long before broadcasters are, like newspaper and magazine publishers, desperately seeking solutions to the disruption that iPTV sets in train.

Up until now broadcast channels have been like libraries full of best sellers.

We’re now entering a world where there’s going to be an explosion of choice, of narrowcasting, of social interaction, and where search terms themselves become channels.

We’ve had that on the web for some time now of course, the difference here is that the content will be coming to you through the primary screen in the home – the one that still occupies more eyeballs, for more time, than any other – the television

I’ve written before about YouTube Leanback, Google TV and Apple TV and the challenges they pose to traditional broadcasters.

But they bring rich opportunities too and bear the potential to reinvent the viewing experience.

Earlier this week Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told a web gathering in San Francisco that he tried every day to reinforce two core values in the company:

“Move fast and be bold”.

He predicted that in the next five years most companies would be rethought and designed around people.

“Some aren’t going to make it. But over the next five years, everyone’s going to have to think about this.”

Bonnier’s attempt to rethink its business and to reinvent the newspaper look tame, rather than bold, to my eye.

I hope the BBC will be bold as it grapples with the disruption and opportunity that iPTV will offer.

The more I read about Rupert Murdoch’s pet project “The Daily” the more intrigued I become.

With all the properties at his disposal the American media magnate has rich potential for his proposed digital “newspaper” for the iPad.

But the nomenclature is troubling: A “newspaper”? On a digital device?

Is that just shorthand to reference something new against something familiar, or is leaning towards replication of the printed product in electronic form?

If it really is the latter it’s akin to putting coaching lamps on a horseless carriage – not very illuminating and not much use – but that’s the way it looks.

According to the New York Times’ David Carr, “The Daily” will be produced in the evening and “printed” for the next morning.

“There will be updates — the number of which is still under discussion — but not at the velocity or with the urgency of a news website.”

Oh dear, oh dear. Has he not understood Eric Schmidt’s concept of “nowness” – a world of real-time data, blended with location and context.

And iPad only? Surely not, not when a wider, burgeoning tablet market beckons?

There’s also the question of content, the vast majority of which is supposed to be original.

The Guardian’s Edward Helmore in New York says the paper is intended to combine “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence”.

With only 100 journalists assigned to the project at News Corp’s Manhattan offices that’s a big ask

Salon cofounder and commentator Scott Rosenberg thinks 100 staff is plenty – provided they’re the right people and the aim is not to be a matter-of-record publication.

How might that look? Well, with video from Fox Sport and Sky, travel and lifestyle material from The Times and Sunday Times, scandal and sleaze from the New York Post and The Sun and even tech and gadgetry from the WSJ there’s plenty of light and shade to choose from.

Rosenberg argues that the biggest weakness with the proposition is the narrowness of its scope. Like a paywalled website it won’t be linkable or shareable and therefore won’t be part of the conversation around news.

For that reason he reckons the Murdoch tablet will be Dead on Arrival.

For all the unanswered questions – and we won’t know the answers until its launch early in the New Year – the commitment to try something new, that makes use of rich media, incorporates original content and sells for 99 cents a week, has to be applauded, flawed though it may be

new yorker cover

The New Yorker is now available as an iPad app and is especially interesting for a couple of reasons.

You can watch a video of David Hockney using the Brushes app to create the front cover artwork, and there’s a full page Visa advert containing hotspots which link to deeper layers of information in the page.

Once you’ve tried it, conventional flat-on-the-page ads elsewhere in the issue seem positively barren.

The same rationale is behind Brainient, but for video adverts. London-based Romanian Emi Gal netted $50,000 seed funding for the project by winning a start-up competition last year and has now secured another $800,000.

The tech world’s relentless race to the next big thing can sometimes make it hard to see the wood for the trees.

But this week has given some tantalising glimpses of the future of news even if the breathless exaggeration that greets each new “app for that” can make them all seem much of a muchness.

The latest entrant to be hyped to the heavens is Flipboard which tech specialist Robert Scoble described as “revolutionary” and others have called “game-changing”.

At first glance it appears to be no more than an elegantly packaged collection of feeds and – for now at least – it’s iPad only so a long way from mainstream.

This is not just a fancy wrapper. It’s underpinned by semantic search company Ellerdale which mines Twitter data in real-time to extract trends and patterns of interest from a vast seam of interactions.

Co-founder of the Ellerdale Project, Arthur van Hoff, talks more about semantics and finding patterns in big data here

Links come alive when the content they point to is re-displayed in familiar magazine-like formats (though questions are already being raised about whether Flipboard is scraping content to which it doesn’t have rights).

Important though that is, it shouldn’t deflect from the fact that social sharing will become an increasingly important distribution route for news organisations and for news discovery.

There are, of course, earlier, less-developed variants:  For some time, Feedera has been delivering a daily email digest of content shared by friends.

It began as an attempt to help people cope with information overload. Peer-group filtering of the significant or relevant brings with it a degree of trust because you know who’s passing it on and who regularly sends the best stuff.

Feedera  gives every story a ranking based on a combination of the number of friends who have tweeted a link – and from popularity metrics gleaned from  services like Digg and Delicious.

Delicious, itself, has recently started a “Browse these bookmarks” beta that brings back full pages rather than simple links and The Twitter is another service to jazz up aggregation by pulling in text, images and video.

By extending aggregation to Twitter lists the power of scraping and re-rendering is multiplied many-fold.

It’s as if you can peer over the shoulder of anyone you choose to see what they’re reading, or listening to, or watching.

For instance, by accessing Robert Scoble’s list of people he has deemed The Most Influential in Tech you can see an instant filter of what that group has been signposting, talking about and considers significant.

There are groups of every stripe and if you don’t like the exisiting lists, or you find a gap in the market, then you can always draw up your own.

Reading Twitter streams – even from the smartest people – can be a chore, especially when jumping backwards and forwards to see linked pages.

Flipboard does the legwork and makes for a much nicer reading experience.

As TED speaker Gary Lauder commented: “My mother is not going to read tweets but she will read Flipboard”.

Apollo is another news app for the iPad (price $4.99) and one that claims to be The Future of the Newspaper.

It aims to help readers discover new content and makes personalisation and social recommendation part of the fabric.

Its algorithm, according to Techcrunch, factors in time spent on articles and sources that have been favourited, as well as the familiar “thumbs up, thumbs down” options to like/dislike articles.

The reason I’ve highlighted these services is because they point the way to a different kind of content consumption in which friends and peers bring social context into the discovery of news.

This kind of filtering is especially important in a world of super-abundant news provision where competition for a reader’s time becomes the most precious commodity.

As well as sampling and aggregating multiple sources, the filters and options they give to rank and rate give readers a greater sense of control.

Anything which helps sift quality items from a mountain of mediocrity will ultimately win out.

To that end we need to start thinking about the tools people will want to control and refine their news flow.