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Google acquires Jotspot

Hot on the heels of Google's acquisition of You Tube, wiki software company Jotspot has become the latest addition to the Google empire.

Here's Jotspot co-founder Joe Kraus announcing the deal on Google blog.

"It’s obvious to anyone following developments in the Web 2.0 arena that Google is building a suite of collaborative office tools, and as much as Google’s moves are viewed as potential competition for Microsoft Office, I think Google is focused on building office tools that are very different from those found in Microsoft Office because the common thread linking them all is collaboration," writes Stewart Mader in his write-up of a podcast he did with Kraus about the deal. Kraus told Mader that Google was attracted to JotSpot because the JotSpot wiki fits in well with its current lineup (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Apps for Your Domain).

The initial information about this deal dropped into my email box because I have two JotSpot accounts (one I set up to find out what the software was about, and one I set up for a client of mine to enable me to collaborate more effectively with colleagues in other countries).

Update 1/11: here's Reuters on the acquisition.

The impartial reporter is either a coward or an imposter

Amidst all the talk of how blogging is changing the way a story is reported, and how in this brave new media world personality, rather than the elusive quest for neutrality, seems key to building an audience, it is easy to forget that media impartiality wasn't always the mantra it is today. This article by The Wall Street Journal's Cynthia Crossen provides a useful reminder of the media's deeply political roots:

"To profess impartiality here," wrote William Cobbett in his Federalist newspaper, Porcupine's Gazette, "would be as absurd as to profess it in a war between virtue and vice, good and evil, happiness and misery." The motto of the Gazette of the United States, which began publication in 1789, was "He that is not for us is against us."

...a New Jersey printer wrote in 1798, "The times demand decision; there is a right and a wrong, and the printer, who under the specious name of impartiality jumbles both truth and falsehood into the same paper, is either doubtful of his own judgment or is governed by ulterior motives."

TV is dead, long live the Internet

It's a tempting conclusion to draw after a week that saw Norway's leading media group sell its stake in the country's biggest commercial TV-station, TV2, and one of Scandinavia's most successful internet entrepeneurs launch plans for a new online TV-channel.

Of course it's not that simple, and Schibsted's managing director has berated Norway's strict cross-ownership laws for making it impossible for the company, who is the country's biggest media group, to pursue a majority stake in TV2. Still, the deal signals a clear strategy shift, and even though company spokesmen have denied Schibsted is looking to sell its Swedish TV-assets as well, Kjell Aamodt, Schibsted's CEO, has indicated that the company is more focused on transmitting live pictures via platforms other than TV. "We don't talk about a TV-strategy anymore, we talk about a live pictures strategy. We are in the process of positioning ourselves both within web- and IP- TV," he told E24. Schibsted sold its 33,3 stake in TV2 to the Danish Egmont group and Norwegian newspaper group A-pressen, the latter incidentally owned by the Labour Union and Telenor (whose majority owner is the Norwegian state).

In a separate move, the Danish Skype-founder and millionaire Janus Friis this week unveiled his plans to launch his third major international project: an online TV-channel expected to go live by New Year (link in Danish via Berlingske, requires subscription). If the Skype-success is anything to go by, this will be an interesting one to watch...

Update 30/10: Anders Gerdin, editor-in-chief of Schibsted-owned Aftonbladet, indicates that Schibsted may sell its minority stake in Swedish TV4: 'It's pointless to have a minority post in a TV-channel,' he is quoted saying to DN (no direct link available).

Update 6/11: Schibsted sells its shares in TV4 to Nordic Broadcasting, of which Bonnier and Proventus each own half.

Newspapers still don't get it

That most newspapers fail to use the web to its full potential is hardly a riveting insight, but I particularly liked two quotes from editor James Brady's talk to the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in New Orleans this week (report via Editor and Publisher). The first really highlights the mindset that prevents many papers from grasping Web 2.0: “In far too many cases, newspapers are still using sites for the basic task of reprinting the paper,” said Brady. In other words, it is the kind of mindset that sees new media as digitalised old media, and fail to grasp the interactive element of Web 2.0.

Brady also told the conference how his site has drawn traffic by posting links to bloggers who have commented on individual stories. Those links, he said, spark return links. "Bloggers can drive 100,000 page views to us if the link to us." came second in a recent survey of the best blogging newspapers in the US and is one of very few newspaper, as far as I'm aware, that provide links to stories on the same subject in competing newspapers.

The curse of free papers

They have been accused of everything from depleting Finnish forests to draining the budgets of European renovation departments. Now free papers are being blamed for causing subway track flooding in New York. The New York Sun reports that a recent investigation task force from the Metropolitan Transport Authority has found it was the city's free papers, and not neglect of track maintenace as previously asserted, that contributed to creating a crippling subway flood September 8, 2004, which affected 15 subway lines.

Jyllandsposten wins Mohammed cartoon libel

A court ruled on Thursday that Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten did not libel Muslims by printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that unleashed a storm of protests in the Islamic world. Seven Danish Muslim organisations brought the case, saying the paper had libelled them with the images, which included one depicting the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, by implying Muslims were terrorists (via Yahoo/Reuters, read the full story here). "Anything but a clear acquittal would have been a catastrophe for freedom of the press and the media's ability to fulfil its role in a democratic society," Jyllands-Posten editor Carsten Juste told JP's online edition (in Danish).

Media coverage aids terrorists

Today's onlinepressgazette carries a though-provoking report from a talk given by Olaf Wiig, the Fox News cameraman kidnapped in Gaza earlier this year: "Wiig said that from the outset his kidnappers wanted to make a hostage video and the biggest motivation for their involvement in the kidnapping, was to film an 'al Zarqawi-style video' to announce the arrival of that particular breed of jihadism in Gaza. One of the issues that Wiig and McNaught discussed was the possibility of an industry-wide agreement of a news blackout when a high-profile hostage is taken, as they said that broadcasting the news gives the kidnappers the attention they desire."

Who said Norwegian beer was expensive?

Tell you what: try having a coke in a bar here. Norway's most expensive pint of coke adds up to £7,60 with today's currency rate. Having 0,4 litre beer in the same place costs £4,90. All according to today's print edition of VG (a direct link to the article doesn't seem to be avilable online), who sent their squad of investigative journalists out to check the price level nationwide. Appearantly Norway charges Europe's highest taxes on mineral water - and here I was thinking that it was alcoholic beverages Norwegian authorities were trying to tax out of existence...


The weird and wonderful world of marketing: do check out "Top 10 ad-tricks in Tokyo's train stations", an interesting article "about how advertisers in the Japanese capital have thought up new ways to saturate train stations with their messages. Not content with traditional billboards and gift tissue packs, advertisers have covered the floor with stickers, clad pillars in mock tea bottles, filled every free space on the ticket gates, and covered the escalator handrail with hundreds of tiny QR-coded ads which, when scanned, pop information about local attractions onto your cell phone" (via Wired News)

Mohammed controversy erodes Danish press freedom

Denmark has dropped from first to nineteenth place in Reporters Without Borders’ annual ’Worldwide Press Freedom Index' due to serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons (link via Börsen, in Danish). It is the first time in recent years journalists in a country that is very observant of civil liberties have had to have police protection after receiving death threats because of their work.

Europe 24/7

The company has just forced a Swedish freesheet war and is mere steps away from completing a merger between its own paper Aftenposten and four of Norway's biggest regional papers - a merger that has been branded an acquisition by its British rival Mecom. Yesterday Schibsted, one of the many companies vying to become Europe's leading media group, reasserted its European ambitions by renaming its business-news-site-concept to facilitate an international launch. Formerly N24 (N denoting the Norwegian word for business), Schibsted's Norwegian and Swedish business news sites have been re-branded E24, which too my mind sounds very much like an abbreviation for Europe24(/7). The media group already owns the E24-domain in Denmark, Finland, France and Iceland, in addition to Norway and Sweden.

Biased BBC

The debate over biased public service broadcasting is hardly confined to any one country, and resurfaces with regular intervals across the Western hemisphere. This weekend, The Mail on Sunday carried a rather damaging report from a recent BBC impartiality summit:

"At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians."

"It reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity."

The article reminded me of an internal BBC seminar I attended in early 2005 where right-wing columnist Janet Daley said something which amounted to: 'young people come straight from university into this big organisation with very strong corporate values and end up incorporating these values subconsciously'. As someone who's had more than a peak inside both Britain's and Norway's public broadcasters, I have yet to encounter a reporter who deliberately sets out to be anything but fair and balanced, but I've met quite a few journalists, across all media platforms, who seem unable to divide between facts and values.... more later...

Every cloud has a silver lining

The ongoing Danish freesheet war may be a tumultuous and costly war for newspaper proprietors, but it has created scores of new journalism jobs. Due to an avalanche of new freesheets, as well as new magazines, radio- and TV channels and internet expansion, unemployment among the country's journalists are lower than in many years, according to Mediawatch. Among the new freesheets Nyhedsavisen has created about 100 new journalism jobs, 24timer about 50, David Montogomery's Dato 40. In addition, TV2 News has recruited 100 new journalists and TV2 Radio 60.

It's rather unlikely that all the new freesheets will survive, every war has its casualties, and it would be no suprise if the freesheets eroded the position of paid for papers, but still: seems like there are worse places than Denmark to be a journalist at the moment.

The Mohammed controversy: what is safe to publish?

The People Party's Youth (DFU) in Denmark has filed a complaint against Nyhedsavisen for publishing a video showing their members competing to draw Mohammed at a party. The frontpage story from the freesheet's launch day has turned out to be a problematic scoop that raises troubling, but important questions.

A left-leaning editor gets hold of the 'ultimate scoop': a video showing drunken youth politicians from Denmark's biggest anti-immigration party competing to make fun of Mohammed, exactly what the editor for a long time has suspected goes on in the echelons of power on the far right. A disgrace for the party? Well, maybe people expected that sort of thing from The People Party's Youth (DFU), but the editor is attacked for reigniting Muslim anger by publishing the story. The Danish Embassy in Iran is bombarded with Molotov cocktails, and Danish Muslims scramble to explain to their counterparts worldwide that no, the video was not made to offend Muslims. The publishing editor insists that the international protests are not his fault but DFU's.

Yesterday, DFU filed a complaint against Nyhedsavisen to the Danish press complaints commission for publishing the video from their summer conference: "This was a closed, private arrangement where the public did not have access. The video recordings were made by a person who, at the time was a member, under the condition that the recordings were for private use only and would not be made public," said Kenneth Kristensen, the leader of DFU. He claimed that the video of drunken DFU members drawing Mohammed was of marginal public interest, and asserted that the only effect of publishing the recordings was to put the lives of those captured on the video in danger (several of them received death threats after the video was published and had to go undercover).

Now, one might argue, as many do, that the 'scoop' was lowbrow journalism at best, or a 'non-story', that it had an agenda (to disgrace the right), and it was a storm in a tea cup of limited interest to the public. Still, the angry and violent reactions this story has attracted are frightening and have far-reaching repercussions. I'm tempted here, to let the facts above stand on their own and let people draw their own conclusions, but here are a few questions this story leaves me with (apart from the ever controversial issue of filming by stealth):

Do we live in a world where journalists must abstain from reporting on certain issues for fear of offending religious sensibilities, even when, as in this case, wrongly or rightfully, the editor might have thought he contributed to revealing a threat to multiculturalism? Should he have expected the death threats to DFU? Is this something we have to learn to live with: that stories which expose a negative story about Islam, or people making fun of the religion, result in death threats against the people involved? And has it really come to this? That youths, admittedly with political roles, drawing stupid drawings at a party can become a threat to a country's economy (Danish companies faced renewed boycotts), and ultimately world peace?

Last week it was feared that Nyhedsavisen's 'scoop' would lead to a new crisis for Denmark on the same scale as the cartoon war. That seems to have been averted, but the whole affair leaves behind many disturbing questions.

Update 21/12-06: The Danish press complaints comisson critisises Nyhedavisen: a majority of its members feel the video was of no public interest, the freesheet's editor disagrees (in Danish, via Mediawatch).

Skeletons falling out of the closet

The new Swedish government may have presented its first budget yesterday, but it is goverment members dodging the TV-licence and using black market services that is attracting the biggest media headlines.

Three Swedish government ministers have been hauled over the coals for not paying their TV-licences. Cecila Stegö Chiló, the culture minister, was forced to resign over this yesterday. Maria Borelius, the trade minister who resigned on Saturday, failed to pay her licence for a short span of time, but was largely brought down by revelations about her personal economy, such as paying a nanny cash-in-hand. Tobias Billström, the integration minister, who is on sick leave, has cited ideological reasons for not paying his TV-licence and said that he "dislikes the programs".

Today Anders Borg, the finance minister, admitted to paying his cleaner cash-in-hand as well, which led a commentator in Svenska Dagbladet to chant "It's raining ministers" (in Swedish) and Dagbladet (link via Vampus) to write "Government massacre continues" (in Norwegian).

However, in Dagens Industri today Johan Norberg points out that: "in a government that represents the people, at least 8 of the 22 ministers should buy services informally. Because almost 4 out of 10 Swedes say that it´s ok - when they are interviewed over the phone by a stranger from a polling firm. So if the two resigning ministers are the only ones who did it, this government has distanced itself from normal people - but for the opposite reason than the one the commentators talk about."

Blogger who brought down minister: "citizen journalism works"

"I think I can dare to state that today. The blogosphere can be both fast and thorough. In addition to that we have good opportunities in Sweden with the fantastic public information act which makes it possible to gain access to important information from government without having a press card... What we citizen journalists can offer is maybe predominantly to investigate the power of the mainstream media." Swedish blogger Magnus Ljungkvist reflecting on his own role on the day the Swedish trade minister resigned (quote via Undercurrent).