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October 2008
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Grandparents destroying the media

I just loved this take on the recent controversy over Danish newspaper publishers' efforts to stop websites like Google News from linking to individual articles rather than a newspaper's homepage (link to the article via Martin Stabe):

"So if I buy a newspaper, cut out a specific article (like my grandmother always does when my school appears in the regional news) and send it to somebody else via mail that should be a crime?

"I always knew grandparents were destroying the media. " (Simon Columbus in the comments on the article).

Solana Larsen: "Simon: Your grandma should mail you the whole newspaper, and not tell you which page the article is on ;-)"


Photo by Old Shoe Woman on Flickr (under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license)

Is social a bubble? On web 3.0, web 4.0 and Vendor Relationship Management (VRM)

“Social” is a bubble. Trust me on this. I urge all consultants on “social ______” (fill in the blank) to make hay while the sun shines. Even as the current depression deepens, lots of companies are starting to realize that this “social” thing is hot stuff and they need to get hip to Twitter and the rest of it. (Just ask the Motrin folks.)

"And it is hot. But much of that heat is relative to its absence in other areas. “Social” has sucked a lot of oxygen out of the online conversational room. Meanwhile, here’s the challenge: make the Net personal. Make relationships personal. Equip individuals with tools of independence and engagement. That’s what VRM is about," says Doc Searls, go read the full post on how VRM is personal here.

Check out this page if you're unfamiliar with the term Vendor Realtionship Management (VRM), which Doc, one of the authors behind Cluetrain, and others think will be the next big thing.

I was privileged enough to be able to attend a VRM meeting with Doc in London back in February, and it's very exciting stuff: the aim is to radically shift the balance of power between vendors and customer in favour of the customer and give the individual more control over his or her relations with companies online. Adriana explains more here and here.

The reason I mention web 3.0 and web 4.0 in the title is that I half-jokingly suggested to Jude that perhaps web 4.0 is about VRM, after she posted this hillarious take on web 4.0 (from 2006) on Twitter. I've only recently been learning a lot more about web 3.0, and though I'd be exaggerating if I said I grasp all its implications, it strikes me as something that will give the individual less control, not more, though perhaps I'm just getting too hung up in the privacy implications.

A quick google search on web 4.0 also throws up Seth Godin's musings on web 4.0, which seems to be a few steps further down the line web 3.0 or the semantic web takes us, making web services even more "intelligent" in terms of giving us relevant recommendations, making the web even more social, but at the same time increasing the privacy concerns plentifold.

So I wonder where VRM fits into all of this, if we should assign it a number in the stage of the web's development or if it will be part of next stage and develope alongside it. As we get more and more "intelligent" web services, will there be a backlash? An urge to wrest back control, to at least be able to better control access, privacy settings, control over our own content and electronic footprints? I'm just thinking out loud here, input and thoughts on this appreciated....

On equipping customers to be independent leaders, this struck me as a very powerful image though it's not taken from a VRM context, but from this presentation.


Today's food for thought

I stumbled across two great SlideShare presentations that really gave me something to think about today - in the best possible way as they are both quite uplifting takes on the times we are living in (the first via Fred Wilson, the second from Neil Perkin).

Despite the disparate titles, they're also vaguely related:

The crowdsourced journalism lecture

Great stuff from Robin Hamman: in preparation for his first day teaching on the MA International Journalism programme at City University, he asked his twitter and facebook followers to help him come up with an outline for the lecture. Here's the results from twitter. Makes me feel rather envious of this year's class of students (I graduated from the same course in 2002).

Trying to break the news addiction

As I'm working from the seaside this week - and find myself struggling both to be indulgent enough to take walks along the seafront during office hours, while it's still light, and not to check my online news sources all the time, only concentrate on the writing at hand - I was reminded of what a friend told me about a fellow acquaintance of us last time we met.

I hadn't heard anything about the person in question, a former deputy business editor of a UK national, for quite some time, so I asked if my friend, another deputy business editor, knew how he was doing:

'Oh, xx? He's alive and well. He's just trying to wean himself off the news addiction, he thinks it's an unhealthy addiction, by going for long walks at the beach each day and trying to stay away from it all,' he answered (I'm just quoting from memory here, this conversation took place in London back in February). I can vaguely relate, though I'd just like it to fade into the background for a few days, while I catch up with all the writing projects I've been too busy to give my full focus, including things I'd like to blog about, for some time.


Stavern 059 

Both photos by me from Corntin bay, Stavern

The Journalist Bailout Programme

If my last post was a bit gloomy, as Ashok was quick to point out, then this solution to current and future media job culls is anything but:

Sixapart, the company behind blog platforms Movable Type and Typepad (which this blog is hosted on), has created its own Typepad Journalist Bailout Programme (via

"If you apply, you'll get a free TypePad account, membership of the Six Apart ads programme which shares revenue on ads on your blog, promotion on and a bunch of vague benefits about being able to manage comments from your phone and such like. I'm sure that will be very helpful in trying to feed your family," says the estimable Jemima Kiss over at The Guardian.

I have to disagree with that wonderfully sarcastic last line of hers. Though blogging can hardly be said to be a quick fix, building a good reputation and a healthy a blog audience takes time, it can be a great indirect source of income.

I'd like to say that I had a well-thought out marketing plan when I set up this blog in 2005: I didn't. In fact, I didn't even set it up myself. A friend of mine got tired of me always blaming my deadlines and lack of time for not blogging and set it up for me with strict orders to get going. In the beginning, it was like a great white canvas I didn't quite know what to fill with, but within a few months I found myself blogging more and more about media and revealed myself to be a media junkie - a revelation that took me with as much surprise as everyone else.

Today, I can't think of any of my jobs and assignments, save a few translation gigs, that have not ultimately come through my blog. Even in my darkest hours as self-employed, when I've lacked the initiative to go out and get new sources of income, work has had a way of finding me - via my blog.

From my early blogging days it has been a great venture of serendipity, and a constant reminder that sometimes we try so hard to get to a certain place that we are blind to all the opportunities around us. In the beginning, I even tried to keep my blogging a secret as it was so far from perfect, and a rather scary venture to undertake because it went so much against my training as a journalist.

It didn't work of course, I think I was "found out" by Financial Times or Greenslade, perhaps via Andrew Grant-Adamson - but it has only created opportunities for me, sometimes despite of myself ( I'd do anything to promote an idea or a story I believe in, but am often rather uncomfortable with promoting myself. However, my blog does that for me - on my own terms).

At this point, I should perhaps admit, that in all my enthusiasm for social media, I made a prediction that didn't come through. In an op-ed for Dagens Naeringsliv, Norway's biggest financial daily, in February last year I said 2007 could become the year when Norwegian media really found its "blogging tone" (perhaps I should be grateful that this is such a prestigious place to write that all premium content, such as op-eds, only is available in Pdf behind a pay wall, hence the lack of a link).

Now, towards the end of 2008, it still hasn't happened, though, much to my delight, I see more and more Norwegian journalists and editors starting personal blogs. Will the looming recession be the famous watershed? I don't know, somehow I can't imagine the union implementing this particular bailout programme in its support schemes for journalists unexpectedly made redundant. But for Typepad it has been such a success that the free offer may end very soon...

Mass media job cull

Or should that be media in mass job cull? Hardly something to jest about, but two images struck a note with me last week.

I thought they were worth recording here as they illustrate what we the can expect in the months ahead: and make no mistake, we're still at the start of this trend.  

First, this graph of media job losses in the UK from July until October, probably underestimated, as Peter Kirwan explains in an earlier post:

MediaJobLosses copy

Then, this screen grab from an article a colleague of mine did about chapel representatives attending a course by The Norwegian Journalist Union (NJ) on how to deal with the wave of redundancies and cost cuts the country's media currently is facing (and it's worth keeping in mind that Norway is only at the edges of recessionary terreritory, the crisis is much further advanced in the UK):

MediaJobLossesNorway copy

As I'm writing this, news are just in that The Independent is shedding a quarter of its journalists, according to FT. The Guardian reports 90 jobs will go at Independent News and Media (INM), 60 of them editorial.

To be honest, this has felt like a very protracted sort of crisis, a crisis in slow motion, though everything got more dramatic from the moment Lehman Brothers collapsed. I've been waiting for a crash in the advertisement market, with a corresponding "media crash", since the last quarter of 2007.

I don't follow the bank industry and was as shocked as everyone else by the bank crisis (though in retrospective it makes sense that it had to come, but it's always easy to be wise in retrospective), but I try to keep an eye on how developments in finance, technology and politics may come to effect my beat, media: I try to look for connections, and think that's an important part of every journalists job in today's increasingly interdependent world.

I thought the subprime crisis and the havoc we saw in its wake, even in its early days, would create a domino effect much sooner, and from that half-informed perecpective it has been a very drawn-out crisis, which we still haven't seen the worst effects of. Fred Wilson had some sobering words related to this the other day.

Back to my beat, a few days ago I was covering the Norwegian trade press' 110 year anniversary and, amid all the celebrationary speeches and champagne, I ended up having an interesting talk with a guy from the marketing department of one trade magazine who said their ad revenues had been very uneven, up and down, since early September, but he expected the downturn to really hit the Norwegian trade press sometime in the spring of 2009....



My mobile phone camera is much better than I thought it was - too bad it's the only thing that's good about the phone. Here's another shot from the boat harbour in Stavern:


Blogger detained as threat to security freed

I was pleased to read this weekend that a Malaysian court had not only ordered blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, whose arrest I blogged about here, freed, but also ruled that the country's government had acted beyond its authority in invoking a threat to national security.

The New York Times rightly pointed out that "Lawyers have long complained that Malaysia’s mildly authoritarian government uses a draconian law, the Internal Security Act, as a tool against political opponents. The act allows for indefinite detention without trial." (via Lars K. Jensen).

But blogger arrests around the world remain a big problem, and despite widespread international appeals, Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has now been imprisoned for more than two years. It is great however, to see Reporters Without Borders campaign both on Raja Petra Kamarudin and Kareem Amer's behalf. To quote an earlier post: time to make the press freedom day a freedom of speech day?  

And so the weird food season kicked off

...And boy did it make me queasy. This week, the weird food season officially kicked off, at least for my part. This lovely-looking fishy treat was served when I attended the annual meeting of the National Journalist Union's (NJ's) art association mid-week. It was only the second time in my life I ventured to eat this traditional dish (the first time was at last year's NJ art association meeting), but it's actually quite nice, believe it or not. If you're not familiar with rakfisk, it's fermented rainbow trout usually served with potatoes, lefse, onion, mustard and sour cream (as well as beer and aquavit).

As it happened I found myself quite unable to eat the next day, but was later reliably informed by the resident alpine coach and health expert that was for being silly enough to try Albanian whisky, which apparently everybody but me knows, or knew rather, is not filtered - and hence dangerous stuff. That made for a weird new experience: head was great the day after, but I was SO nauseous and traditional remedies, such as paracetamol, did nothing to alleviate it - just had to wait for it to get out of my body.

Anyway, as I was walking around in the belief that the fish was to blame for this uncomfortable state of affairs - after all, some folks call rakfisk "rotten fish", it certainly smells like that, the funniest description I've seen of it so far is "dead trout put in a bucket to rot"  -  I thought to myself that I had a very trying season in front of me, seeing that, in Norway, the time before Christmas is filled with corporate and family get togethers with Norwegian "delicacies" such as Rakfisk, Lutefisk (cod prepared with lye/caustic soda) and Smalahove....

Rules of online engagement: learning to speak human

In my introduction to using the social web - which I should have put the sign "work in progress" on, but have now gone over and added more links/ edited for clarity - I only thouched very lightly on the all important issue of rules of engagement online (towards the end), describing briefly, with what I believe to be Adriana's words, how the web is a conversation, and behaving like an institution is bound to fail.

Perhaps I didn't say the latter, but this presentation by Adriana explains the new rules of engagement brilliantly - MUCH more in-depth, and much better than what I could. Incidentally, if the estimable Astrid Meland (just added to my blogroll) is looking for a corporate bullshit-talk generator, though she is doing very well in that department herself in this post (in Norwegian), at least much to my amusement, this presentation is worth checking out:

Knowledge anno 2008

Paal Hivand asked a question on Twitter this week, which had me thinking about a recent conversation on ... eh ... Twitter. Thing is, Paal said (in Norwegian) that he was contemplating an article about how knowledge used to be individual, but now is social. I'm not going to go into that statement, just offer this anectdotal evidence for how knowledge in some respects is easier available than ever before (click on the image for a readable version):


I love Adriana's conclusion to my remark about what great lengths I'd go to dig out dusty old books on this particular subject some 16 years ago, whereas now it's all on Wikipedia:

"The remembered trivia one was so proud of now two clicks away! What is the world coming to -:)" I'd just jumped into a conversation between Adriana and Freecloud here - which started with the Albigensian crusade and ended with the Twitterian crusade - and it's also worth keeping in mind that we probably wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't for Twitter...

Update 14:15: a_spod just reminded me of Google book search in the comments, which reminded me of this interesting article by John Naughton: "Google pays small change to open every book in the world"

Freedom of Media Conference 2008 live streamed parts of the Freedom of Media Conference 2008, organised by the Institute of Journalism (IJ), this week. Two keynotes have been saved for posterity:

See the moving appeal of former presidential candidate and FARC-hostage Ingrid Betancourt here. Jyllands-Posten's cultural editor, Flemming Rose, introduces a debate about The Muhammad Cartoons - an imagined clash of civilizations - here. In the talk, Rose reflects upon his decision to publish the cartoons.

In her talk, Betancourt said: "If it wasn't for you, the media, the world would have forgotten about us, the FARC hostages.

"They don't fight for ideals, that's just polish for something else. FARC is a drug cartel. The war has given them a power base and solved some of their problems, peace has not appealed to the movement."

Press play to play. To embed either of the videos: click on the blue text under the videos and embed code will appear.

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