RETROFEST 2009 is not cancelled

Mentioning this quickly for a mate. Despite the rumour that appeared on Facebook, Retrofest 2009 in Glasgow has not been cancelled and is going ahead as planned. I have this straight from the organisers.

Why Facebook could cost you $10million – and well done Daily Record for Strachan story

It amazes me how people still don’t think before posting online. Lots of people have been following the couple who made off with the $10million accidentally put in their bank account. Now I’ll leave it to others to debate the morality of it all, but I find it hilarious (in a WTF sort of way) that the reason the cops may now be able to trace them is because of the sister-in-law and her Facebook postings.

I mean, how can we still have people not realising that what they post online will catch up with them in the real world?

(while on the note of social media, well done to the Daily Record for breaking the scoop online about Gordon Strachan resigning – even beating some Celtic diehards – on Twitter. I know some doubt the use of Twitter but things like this show the benefit – quick filing of copy to a mass audience and easily spread about. Well done there chaps)

Beginner’s Guide to Social Media: a talk

Thanks to an invite from Platform PR’s talented Kate Trussler, I’ll be speaking at the May CIPR Young Communicators Networking Event at The Grill on the Corner, Bothwell Street, Glasgow. Won’t be anything too intense – heck, wait and see the young ‘uns will probably end up teaching me a thing or two – but it will definitely be fun.

Anyone wanting to head along should drop Kate a line – it’s a good thing she’s doing here. In her words: “Aimed at those who are relatively new to the industry – at account assistant or executive level – these informal monthly events are a chance to bulk up your contact book and discuss industry issues over wine and nibbles.”

Anyway, perhaps see you there. Failing that, I’m booked for a few more speaking engagements later in the year, details of which I’ll drop in nearer the time.

Nottinghamshire County Council coverup is poor PR with Channel 4’s The Unloved

Just watched and been left drained by Channel4’s The Unloved (part of their Britain’s Forgotten Children week) and there’s a missed PR opportunity – damage limitation and positive PR – for the local council in the tale, Nottinghamshire County Council as well as finding homes for children needing help.

It was a harrowing tale of what children go through in the UK care system and was all the more painful for being told through a child’s point of view. (If you missed the show you can watch it here free until the middle of June.)

What was surprising though was that Nottinghamshire social services (and by extension, their bosses at Nottinghamshire County Council) don’t seem to have been ready for this coming. According to director (and Hollywood actress) Samantha Morton in an Independent interview:

And while Nottinghamshire County Council proved helpful, the county’s social services department were less amenable. “Nottinghamshire social services blocked every single meeting. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody. I said to them ‘talk to me… read the script… I want to get this right’. They said no. Staff were warned off. Once again it’s a culture of cover-up.”

In the end, Morton says, she didn’t require their assistance. “I didn’t need to do much research because I’m very much active in the care system. I work for a charity called A National Voice (for children in care) and I’m an ambassador for Save the Children. I also have lots of friends who are residential social workers, who looked after me as a child. I was able to ask them lots of questions off the record.”

Now regardless of what the council’s social work department may think of helping the filming out, the fact is that people are going to watch this, see that it’s set in Nottinghamshire and assume that this show is depicting how it is in the care system in the area. To that end, you would think they would have arranged the following:

  • Positive press – nationally and locally – before the show aired.
  • Someone online monitoring/responding what people were saying about the show as it aired – there was plenty of chat about The Unloved on Twitter for example. (C4 should have done this as well)
  • Video and testimony available from the following – care workers, councillors, those in the system, carers and others who have been through the system.
  • All and any reports praising the system.
  • Had something ready to counter the claims of cover-up.
  • Make sure that there’s something in all the local media this week – interviews and features – showing the service off in a positive light.

If feeling brave at the outset they could have worked with the film with a condition being that Samantha Morton also did a 5-10 minute video speaking about how the services have improved since she was in care. That would have been a PR coup for them.

Now while there’s the obvious issue of damage limitation – after all, the film certainly doesn’t do them any favours – there’s another aspect to this in that the next-door city council is currently looking for foster parents – a bit of savvy and the council could have been promoting this or their own foster requirements and who knows how many people that may have helped?

Even if one child could have found a home or a little more funding brought in, then every piece of PR effort would have been worth it.

And yes, it may well be that the council has plans to do something from Monday morning to counter the show but that’s at least a day too late – good PR deals with things before and during as well as after. PR and public opinion doesn’t just work Monday-Friday 9am -5pm and too many still think that it does.

The Biggest Problem with the new Star Trek plot

Fairly decent-sized spoiler for the new Star Trek film after the jump (not a review or anything, just a nagging plot point):

Ok, so Spock and Nero both come from the normal timeline to around 130 or so years in the past yeah? 130 years before the star that blows up Romulus goes critical.

Is it just me or would you go with the red matter to the star and collapse it 130 years early? Job done. Everyone saved, use some red matter or whip around the sun to go home.

(I know, I know, but that’s really bugging me. The film is generally very good – definitely better than the last few, though the plot has… issues if you think it through logically. The worse thing I can say is that I thought the music was poor – especially compared to the trailers. And where was Paul McGillion?)

And feel free to come back here Monday for some Trek/PR fun – leaving it until then to try and minimise folk moaning about spoilers.

Review: Flip Mino HD v Nokia N95 v iPhone v everything else

I’ve managed to have a quick and dirty test with the Flip Mino HD and compare it to what I call the PR/journalist mobile workhorse, the Nokia N95, but which comes out better? Or should you stick with an iPhone? (Yes, I know, including the iPhone was cruel.) Heads-up, lots of YouTube video in this.

I’ve already compared the N95 to the iPhone as a practical multimedia device for PRs and journalists (and parents), so after getting my hands on the Flip – which was used to fantastic effect by the Sunday Mail reporter (and Scottish reporter of the year) Charlie Lavery in AfghanistanI thought I might post my thoughts with some side-by-side examples.

    First thoughts:

In terms of weight and ease of use, there’s nothing between the two of them. If anything, the Flip is a tad lighter. It’s also a little easier to use in that you press the ‘on’ button, wait a second or two and off you go. On the N95, startup (from off) takes a good 30 seconds. If the phone is already on, going into video camera phone can take up to 10 seconds.

Both are straightforward point and shoot efforts. You point at what you want and you digital zoom in if you need to be closer. On both the digital zoom is average at best and best avoided.

The thing to bear in mind with what you see below is that how they look after YouTube is not how they look on my machine. I’ll let you judge what the YouTube codecs has done to them yourself when I talk about colour and sound on the clips, it will be as how they appeared on my machine.

On that note, the first thing worth pointing out is this:

Size of Flip image versus N95 on desktop

Size of Flip image versus N95 on 15inch laptop screen

(click on the above for a full-size image – 1.3MB though)

That was the first surprise -when you set them to actual size to show on your machine the Flip is quite happy to more or less take up the full screen – and looks decent too – while the N95 takes up a smaller space and still looks a little blocky (machine used was a MacBook Pro 15-inch)

    Picture and Sound Quality:

This actually surprised me. I was expecting the Flip to romp this, but it wasn’t that cut and dried.

Interior, dark
I won’t bore you with the video from this as both were awful (if you insist – that was the Flip). Darkness just doesn’t work for either of them, so strap on a torch if you want to re-enact the Blair Witch Project.

Interior, average light
Here’s the shots from my living room. The child in the video when sitting was around six feet from me and when doing starshapes at the end was about two feet away from me. If you want to sync the videos up, the N95 one should be started at 1:00 while the Flip one should be at 1:57 – but you get to see some sound/audio before that if you want to watch the lot.

N95 Living Room

Flip Living Room:

I thought the Flip would romp this but the N95 actually had the better colours. Sound was equal on both.

Flip Goldfish
(Goldfish in this start at about a minute in.)

N95 Goldfish

In the Goldfish, I didn’t think there was much in it – the Flip seemed to have a slight edge, but nothing I would say was significant. (The noise in each shot is the fishtank filter)

Overall for the house shots, I was surprised on this because while the Flip seems to have the better shot and perspective, the N95 actually had better colours. The Flip’s colours appeared a little more washed out, while the N95’s were more realistic.

Exterior shots

N95 Flowers

Flip Flowers

For me, the Flip was the winner here. The colours looked just a tad more vivid and real. Sound was more or less equal on them both. However, after YouTube has done what it does, the N95 actually appears to have better colours online.

N95 Uddingston External

Flip Uddingston External

The Flip was the winner here again. There just seems to be a little bit of sharpness, contrast and better colour than the N95. The perspective also seems a little better – judge the oncoming car in both for example.

    Conclusions and Notes:

For all I’m a fan of the N95, I fully expected the Flip to wipe the floor with it. It didn’t and that surprised me. Don’t get me wrong, it has a lot going for it – better perspective, better outdoor colours, HD at 720 – but I wasn’t blown away as I would have expected. They were both 50/50 when used on a Standard Definition TV – perhaps some slightly better colour on the Flip.

Where the Flip does score is in convenience – the USB plug pops out, plug it in and off you go – the software’s even built in. The N95’s file structure on the other hand is horrific – and slow if you decide to use Bluetooth.

Both machines use mp4 file format – h264 if memory serves – so they are easy enough to edit in external applications. The software that comes with the Flip is very basic in that regard – but it does the job if need be.

if I had any other phone, I think a Flip would be a no-brainer but if someone has a N95 I don’t know if there’s any great need to fork out extra cash. If you only had an iPhone, a Flip would be a great addition.

I see Flip have updated their range to include a two-hour HD camera that appears a little bulkier but also a little cheaper, which may be an acceptable trade-off for some.

For a person caught needing quick web-ready video, either of these would do. If I suddenly needed a video quote off someone and only had the N95 with me, I wouldn’t panic as I know it would do the job. Similarly if I’m a reporter running about with space for only one bit of kit, the phone wins it as it does more than just be a camera. Both are capable and competent for the job of YouTube-sized web video. It just so happens that one can also do audio, calls and a million other things – and is cheaper.

There are other cameras that some consider including the Creative Vado HD and Kodak Zi6. Here’s some links to other reviews of them – Flip Mino HD (vs Creative Vado HD and Kodak Zi6) and Flip Mino HD, Kodak Zi6, Griffin Clarifi. Those are both video reviews but a fantastic text review (with screengrabs) can be found here.

Anyway, if anyone has decent examples of what these pieces of kit can do, feel free to post examples in the comments section.

Digital Britain Scottish Unconference – Friday May 8, 5-7pm, Glasgow

Thanks to the kind generosity of the wonderful Katie Howard and The Living Room, Glasgow (150 St Vincent Street, G2 5NE), we now have a time and venue and everything for the Digital Britain Unconference in Scotland. Glasgow to be specific. It’s going to run from 5-7pm (though I would encourage everyone to hang about afterwards and chat items through).

I’ll post up more details later but if you want to go to this, leave your details in the comments thread. Space will be limited for this – I’ve kept the venue to a) who was offering free facilities, b) free wifi c) the number of people who had registered an interest.

Basic topics that should come up will include (but I’m open to more topics/better topics):

  • The fact that Digital Britain is especially a lie in Scotland given the remote areas and the troubles they have with online
  • Scottish media and digital
  • Businesses and digital
  • Does Scotland really care about digital?

Anyway, entry is free, the company is free. The rest is up to you.
(And before anyone moans about date, location and so on. May 8 was the best date for those who previously responded.)

Digital Britain Scottish Unconference Event – looking for attendees

Right, doing this one quickly and messily just to judge interest (and because I need to be somewhere else five minutes ago).

The Digital Britain Unconferences are being held after a general consideration that the official conference for Digital Britain (Digital Britain: The Interim Report – On 29 January 2009 the Government published a plan to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of the global digital economy – ) was incredibly poor (apart from Stephen Fry) and secured by old media companies to moan more than anything else. So the unconference was born:

More details of the Unconferences can be found at:

Anyway, if a free event was held in Glasgow between now and May 12, would you be willing to go along? If there’s a decent response, let’s get this set up. (note, this is completely different from the Digital Media Meal)

Newspapers still failing to grasp web, doom UK reporters – SEO to blame

Papers still don’t get the web and just like every other time, it’s the management’s fault, which begs the question of should the webguys be getting even higher positions in papers. Here’s the latest press screw-up and it involves SEO.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been hearing more and more tales from reporters – from the highest titles in the land to the lowest – getting really fed up with the digital newspaper concept (Iain Hepburn has a vivid case study about it).

Why? because all it’s meaning for them is that they go in, spend two hours rewriting copy from other sites (without including linkback credits of course) for the website. And then they go off and do the other journalistic jobs they are allowed to, like rewriting agency copy, perhaps even getting to pick up the phone to speak to a contact (who probably can’t talk back as they are in their office).

But why are they having to spend hours carrying out what is fairly known as churnalism? Because the top brass want to go with the phrases that will boost them in search engines.

Now there’s two problems with this:
• By rewriting copy from elsewhere, you’re just getting the same hit as them
• You’re also hosing it by not providing a linkback, which might actually just do you more good

The main problem though is that by doing this, you are going for the lowest common denominator nine times out of ten – you’ve got a journalist wasting time writing about Britney Spears instead of chasing up their own stories – stories which may matter more locally to readers than what Miley Cyrus bra size is.

As I said the other week on Newsnight Scotland – and this applies to PR as much as any media – fresh, exclusive content is the driver these days. Keep it fresh and others will link to you, talk about you, refer back to you. And that’s the SEO gold. And to get that fresh content you need content providers. In the media industry, they call the reporters. You know, the ones that management keep sacking and letting go.

Oh. There’s a potential problem.

Who is to blame then? Ultimately, the blame for this one has to go to management – but also the web teams and reporters for not standing up and pointing out that using reporters for churnalism is a waste of resource. I can see why it’s done, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s right.

If churnalism is that important to a publication, here’s what they should do: find the nearest media college and get a bunch of interns/work placements in. They’ll be happy to be getting in the door – they may even bring in some stories – but that frees up the reporters to go and find the real SEO booster – original content. Exclusives. Scoops. They may even do it multimedia.

The press has always been, in part, a numbers game, but this is taking it too far.

(And yes, I know churnalism has always been a part of the job too – rewriting agency copy, PA and AP, but at no point did you have to spend two hours doing it every day.)

Why the Daily Telegraph was right to try twitterfall despite the twitterfail and the lesson for marketers

The Daily Telegraph had a nice idea for its website – run a Twitterfall of terms related to the 2009 Budget in the UK, but within hours of it going up, people were – you guessed it – throwing up comments like “The Telegraph is the worst paper in the UK. I wouldn’t wipe my arse with it.” They took a pounding for it, but I think they were right to do it – even if they forgot the first rule of web2.0.

For those wondering, the first, most basic rule of web2.0 is that once you do it, you lose control, it’s out there and it’s a two-way thing. Skittles saw that recently when they switched out their homepage with social media sites, newspapers and other sites have been hammered by runaway comment sections. It’s a strength of 2.0 but also a weakness – the conversation is only as good as the lowest common denominator.

So it was a daft thing to do but easily seen coming – heck, I remember saying to someone before that if I worked at a paper still and my main competitor set up traffic/weather tweeting systems I’d have them down in less than a day as you could easily flood them with unreliable data if you know how to play the system.

(That might shock some people, but it’s worth remembering that while a lot of web2.0 is built on a fabric of goodwill, kindness, optimism and a little naivety, newspapers are ferocious places where you do what you can to screw over the competition. Hell, I once redirected a competitor’s phone to mine: all was fair in love and war for a scoop. And it was far worse in the 80s and 70s.)

So it was daft to do, but were they right to try it? Yes. They may have thought that people would have better things to do than take the mickey out the feed. (This may have been one of those times where having a PR person about might have had them point out the dangers to the editorial side.) It might even have been worth a SWOT analysis. Ultimately though, papers are trying to show what people are thinking out there and a Twitterfall is as good a way as any.

What they should have done was left it quiet until tomorrow then announced it was happening and what the hashtags would be. That and not started the Twitterfall until about an hour before the event. That way even if people were coming on with abuse, the real content would drown them out.

Another possibility might have been to use a form of Liveblogging instead of Twitter – but that would have involved more staffing and I suspect the appeal of Twitterfall was that it could be automated and Twitter is still the tech du jour amongst many.

Either way, like most experiments, was worth a try, a couple of lessons will have been learned and everyone will have forgotten about it in a couple of weeks – more than likely overshadowed by what’s actually in the budget.

Sly Bailey at Digital Britain 1: Less is more when it comes to readers

Going through Sly Bailey‘s speech from Digital Britain last week – full thoughts later – but this part popped up:

It means rejecting the relentless quest for a gazillion unique users…….instead focusing on delivering loyal……valuable customers.

To me (and I’m not saying if I agree or not for now), she’s saying one thing there: less is more.

Interesting to see that applied to outwith the newsroom. Anyway, more thoughts on this later.

Dinosaur 1: Dorothy Grace Elder still doesn’t get digital media for newspapers

Couple of interesting pieces been kicking about the last few days – both of which continue to show old media’s complete and utter failure to grasp digital media for newspapers. First up, there’s a piece on All Media Scotland about a report on how Finnish financial newspaper Taloussanomat went web-only and what happened to the revenues/staffing. The original report as linked to by Compute Scotland is worth a read and I’ll come back to that in another post.

But what was of interest – for the purposes of this post – was the comment by Dorothy Grace Elder:

The City University research on a Finnish local paper which lost at least 75% revenue from readers and advertisers when it stopped printing and went online should be a wake up call to the industry. Also, it shows the folly of Governments and political bodies aiming to switch public notices and job adverts to the web, destroying more local papers. We need much more research like this in Scotland to give the results to the web-obsessed. The Finnish results are no surprise – few want to be saddled with a computer at all times to gain a scrap of news. How few can always find a plug in beyond a minority onboard top of the range trains? To gain instant access to the media, on buses, suburban trains, or at home in the toilet, garden, bedroom or kitchen, something easy and instant needs to be invented – oops! It’s known already and called A NEWSPAPER. Wake up and smell the newsprint.

Now, I like Dorothy. She’s opinionated, great for a quote (or was regarded as such when I was a reporter) and her heart is normally in the right place. But on this one she’s well out of touch.

Firstly, she criticises the Government and others for switching job adverts to online instead of staying with press. That’s fair enough, but for years that hasn’t been where people looked for jobs anyway – job centres and larger papers were looked at, not the locals. Also, as a taxpayer, should she not be wanting the council to make best use of their cash – I’d rather have a streetlight than a bunch of job ads in the Hamilton Advertiser anyday.

Her other comment also shows how she’s missing the point. For a start, laptops can run for up to five hours now without a topup, but more to the (missed) point, more and more people are using their phones for news – Blackberries, N95s, iPhones, what have you – and the screensize on them is growing and we’re going to see news apps grow. Mobile is where it is at now – and it’s frustrating to see so many people still failing to grasp web, never mind mobile.

Dorothy also talks about “To gain instant access to the media” and says newspapers are a way of doing that. Yes, but it’s old news – in some cases more than 24 hours old. Digital news is far more up to date. And what’s more important is the fact that news is still being provided – that’s why they’re called NEWSpapers and not papernews – it’s the content not the delivery medium that’s important.

Basic lesson from the Damian McBride affair…

The whole world is going on about this and the role Guido Fawkes played in it, but what gets me is the sheer basic and bloody incompetence of it all. First rule of anything that might bite you on the backside is that you don’t leave a trail that lets it come back to you. Have our politicians became so crap that they can’t even plan a decent black op anymore?

(and yes, while I do think it is a good day for bloggers, there’s at least half a dozen ways Labour could have controlled this online and minimised damage)

(and a very salient point from Dizzy Thinks with Derek Draper talking about the emails:

Imagine if all your emails suddenly became available to people wanting to damage you. That is, of course, the other question that needs to be asked: how were these emails obtained? Was criminal activity and hacking involved? Believe me, these are issues I will be looking at when I return from my holiday. “Blog wars” are one thing but hacking into people’s emails is surely a step too far?

As Dizzy puts it in response:

I wonder whether Derek is aware that the Government and party that he supports is actually has an official policy of reading our emails if it wants? Or taking contorl of our computers remotely if it suspects us of something?

Splitting in two – anyone else done it?

Quick post. It’s bugged me since setting up that this site is a bit of everything for me, so I’ve decided I’m probably going to split my sites – one for my mass media/PR/twitter/social media thoughts and one for Craig McGill, the writer because they’re too fairly different markets and areas for me, so if I want to work in both and promote both, they should get their own spots. I’ll be splitting stuff like Twitter accounts and RSS as well to see if it makes my life more structured or not.

Anyone else done anything like this? Any pointers, hints or tips?

Free SMS Twitter on your phone returns to the UK – for Vodafone users – is this their iPhone killer and is it exclusive? (yes it is)

It’s confirmed on the Twitter blog after being broken on Electropig (great scoop lads) and Mashable – very soon free SMS text service for Twitter will return – but only for Vodafone UK customers.

Many said that the loss of the free SMS service from Twitter was a blow for the service and there was the usual outraged moaning (I thought it made perfect sense – you can’t give stuff away forever) and Twitter went from strength to strength afterwards.

Anyway, let’s look at this another way – is this Vodafone UK’s way of fighting the iPhone? O2 has the iPhone, Orange are rumoured to be joining them (as well as getting the option for the 3G sim-enabled macbook when it comes out) and it seems to be a fairly tight agreement, so what do you do if you can’t have the iPhone? Go get the main channel of communication instead. I wonder if a phone network could insist on this as an exclusive – and make that the carrot they offer to customers?

I’d watch and see what phones Vodafone start to tout now becuase they’ll push phones that let you make the most of this – though I wonder if they will charge a small amount – £5 a month say – as an add-on for the unlimited Twitter option or if it will be free for everyone. If so, who the feck is scaling their network?

Be interesting to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: It’s a Vodafone exclusive right enough. According to Yashin19 

devices tab in Twitter settings confirms SMS alerts are exclusive to Vodafone. Along with good coverage in Edinburgh it seems!

I think this could be a bit of a gamechanger – though the debate has already started (guess where).

Twitter and Google Latitude/GPS to be used in ARG/social media safari hunt in Glasgow and London

This is a quick shameless plug but I’m excited by it – with Whyte and Mackay I’m launching a safari hunt in Glasgow and London with the idea being that anyone who can find the Whyte and Mackay lions on a bar (they’ll be a cut-out) gets a bottle of whisky. (They’re both on Facebook as well – London safari hunt and Glasgow safari hunt.)

In an age when people say it’s hard to judge social media metrics, here’s the old fashioned test – how many people will come out for free bottles of £40 whisky and other free drinks?

There’s more details here and all the excitement can be followed on Twitter at

And here’s what people should be looking for:

Is Scotland rubbish at PR?

Simple enough question eh? The reason I ask is that All Media Scotland is talking about PR Week‘s PR Week Powerbook (yup, you can read the whole thing online) – ‘the definitive guide to the most influential people in PR’ – and according to AMS, there’s only a handful or two of Scots in the 300 strong list.

According to the article:

Of the Scots entries, seven are actively practising in Scotland. They are: Alex BarrBIG Partnership, Glasgow; Barbara ClarkVisitScotland; Neil GibsonBIG Partnership, Glasgow; Carol MatthewsMatthews Marketing, Glasgow; Julie McGarvey3×1, Glasgow; Nora SeniorWeber Shandwick; and Beverley TrickerTricker PR, Aberdeen.

The others are mainly London-based: Mike MurphyTrimedia, Gordon Beattie – Beattie Communications, Andrew BrownEDF Energy, and Alan TwiggSeventy-Seven PR.

(one thing that stuck out for me – how few of those main Scottish PR sites have anything even remotely resembling social media/web2.0 – even basic things like blogs or twitter details).

Now the tone of the AMS piece suggests that there should be more in there. So let’s have a look at the figures

  • The CIPR has more than 780 members drawn from public relations consultancies, public sector organisations and PRs working for private sector companies in Scotland.
  • It is estimated that around 4000 people are employed in the public relations industry in Scotland and that the industry turns over around £450 million per year.
  • Scotland’s population is around 5 million, compared to 61million in the UK

So there’s 11 Scots out of 300 in the list, Scotland’s population is roughly 8% of the UK total. By that terribly simplistic set of sums and some assumption making, there should be around 24 or 25 Scots.

So what gives?

In all honesty, I don’t know – but can’t wait to sit down and have a full read to see what it says – but one simple explanation may be that people had to be nominated and the vast majority of PRs were just too busy to get round to nominating themselves, spending their time on clients instead (that’s not to imply that the people above don’t spend time on clients – far from it. They all have fantastic track records).

It will also be interesting to watch this over the coming year as digital media moves more to the fore and how that affects things.

But is Scotland rotten at PR and is Willy from the Simpsons the best person from Scotland at shouting from the rooftops (yup, that is what you calla tenuous link)? I don’t think so, but what do others think?

Will OnLive be the decider in Sky TV v Virgin media content battles?

According to this story at the always excellent Kotaku, OnLive is a facility that lets any machine (more or less) play the latest games. The trick here is that our broadband connection does all the work – cloud computer gaming.
Now, imagine such a device squeezed into your Sky or Virgin set-top box.

As the article puts it:

The concept is simple. Your controller input isn’t going from your hand to the controller to the machine in front of you, it’s going from your hand to the controller through the internet to OnLive’s machines then back again as streamed video. Whether you’re using a USB gamepad, Bluetooth wireless controller, or tried and true keyboard and mouse, the processing and output happens on OnLive’s side, then is fed back to your terminal, with the game “perceptually” played locally.
In other words, it’s cloud computed gaming.
Using patented video compression in tandem with algorithms that compensate for lag, jitter and packet loss, OnLive delivers video at up to 720p resolution at frame rates up to 60 frames per second. Of course, the quality of the video feed relies on your connection.
For standard definition television quality, a broadband connection of at least 1.5 megabits per second is required. For HDTV resolution, a connection of at least 5 mbps is needed.

If I was a content provider like Sky or Virgin in the UK, I’d be on the phone to these guys right away as this could be the new football but for kids, teens and solo flat dwellers (actually, it’s for everyone except mums).

Now, if you’re a company with an already decent infrastructure (and it pains me to praise Virgin because their customer service is terrible, but there’s no alternative where I live – damned if I’m paying BT £125 to reconnect me to their network) this is a double winner as it lets you offer more gaming (and more than one set-top box in each house – kids will want one each in their own rooms) and a high-speed web connection.

But what’s in it for the gamemakers? On the one hand you have the loss of console sales – unless the console makers go for this as well (not beyond the realm of possibility) – but for PC games, this could be fecking massive – no distribution or manufacturing charges, harder piracy (if the set-top box is a closed system), but you could have various charges for owning a game for a night, a week, a month, for eternity.

What’s in it for the customer? Tons of games while gaining space from household clutter (no need for a console in the living room) and potentially some cash savings compared to what the house spends now on games.

Someone else who would be onto a winner: any company that managed to sell add-ons for games like a tennis racket, sniper rifle and so on…

Really wild thought: could we see a company with an interest in you staying at home – Domino Pizza for example – meeting the cost of these boxes as part of some promotional activity?

Anyway, as we reach channel saturation with HD and 3D being the things touted at us for TV (most people I know with a HD telly bought it to save space in their living room, not for the content) it may well be that the old chestnut of games is actually what helps decide the content provider wars.

(The story’s on Wired and as well)

Full thoughts on Battlestar Galactica finale: nice ideas, terrible finish

The more I think about the end of Battlestar Galactica, the more I have to applaud Ron Moore and his team for providing an ending, but the more I really want to slap them as well. Rarely has a finale tried so hard to hit all the emotional beats for characters but fail so dismally at plot resolution.
(Tons of spoilers ahead – but my initial thoughts are here)
Continue reading

Memo to Polly Toynbee: insulting the customers doesn’t work

Last thought on the Polly Toynbee/Guardian piece: At the end of it she says:

In the end, it’s up to you. If you always read this on the web, go out and buy a copy, skinflint. Use it or lose it.

How about this? Create the compelling content and people will come to you instead – give them a compelling and unique reason for looking at the print instead of the web. Don’t blame or insult the consumer, that’s never going to increase sales. And find decent ads that they may click on.

It seems to me that insults are rarely going to work. Like many others in the world of media she’s clinging to the old model – buying the paper – instead of looking to see what alternatives there may be.