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February 2010
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Newspaper group wants to make money selling e-readers and mobile platforms

Danish regional newspaper company Fynske Medier unveiled plans to invest another two million pounds (20m DK) in developing technology such as e-readers and mobile platforms this week.

The media group has already had some success selling online systems, and I'm assuming we're talking about content management systems here, to other smaller online publications, and wants to develope this side of its business further, according to (quoting financial daily Börsen). The newspaper group even has international ambitions, though the story had me wondering if this market isn't already rather saturated? And how well is a smallish newspaper group like this positioned to compete in it?

Update 22.03.2010 09:14 CET: Not that I think it's a bad thing that media companies look for ways to diversify their business and create new sources of revenue, but this story came hot on the heels on a Guardian blog post on New York Times (NYT) and CNN trying to keep up with tech companies - with the executive editor of the former saying that NYT is as much of a tech company as a journalism company now.

Obviously, mobile techonology, smart phones, as well as the need to find new ways of making money online, has made it an imperative for media companies to either invest more in developing new products and solutions, or partner with someone who can do it for them. My point is only that a) media groups dabbling in tech development like this is not new, and the Guardian story had me wondering how much of this is just re-branding or spin; b) most of the bigger media players are rushing to grab a part of the mobile market these days and investing in in-house development; c) how well are most media companies, hampered by institutional inertia and constraints really suited to take on more agile tech start-ups?   

There's a lot of buzz around e-readers, mobile platforms, apps and architecture these days, and some of it is really, really exciting. Of course media companies have to be where their readers are, ideally also foresee where media habits are moving, but this new bonanza in the mobile market reminds me a bit about the heady start of the Danish freesheet war, of the days when all media companies had to have their own freesheet. That, of course, was great fun to cover as a journalist, it was a very colourful drama from beginning to end, but it didn't end very well for the media companies involved.

The winter it REALLY snowed in Norway

Doesn't it always snow in Norway during winter? Well yes, most of the time, but this winter has been exceptional, so much so that we've experience conditions almost similar to those seen in the UK whenever there is even very light snowfall.

At the start of this year I was contacted by BBC Scotland who wanted to go to Oslo to do a story on how Norwegians were coping with the snow on the premise that the Scots probably had one or two things to learn from Norwegians when it came to dealing with snow. That is true, in the years I lived in the UK I always thought it ridiculous how even a few thin patches of snow could bring all public transport to a standstill, so when I agreed to set up the interviews for BBC's visit neither I nor they had any idea this would be the result:


You need to click on this link, or the one above, to see the video. It's great fun, but I'm afraid there's not really many lessons for the Scots in there.

However, now that the winter finally seems to be coming to an end here - the snow is melting and it's spring equinox this weekend - here's the few photos from the winter the amount of snow reached industrial propportions Norway (in Oslo we've had several warm winters with little snow until the winter of 2008/9, when we almost ran out of places to put all the snow cleared away from roads and public places, but it still proved to be nothing compared to 2009/10):

Once there was a car...


a car window...


and even a door...


And yes, this winter I also found myself snowed in on one occasion, when visiting a relative only 33 kilometers from Oslo, and had to clear mountains of snow to get to the car. Last winter, we only reached the point that local authorities had to put up signs to prevent people from dumping more snow in the sea:


Now, I'm so glad it's finally spring... 


(all photos by me, the difference in quality is down to some being captured with my mobile phone camera and the latter two with my Canon Powershot)

Google Street View: bringing the world closer together

We often hear about how technology leads to alienation, hampers personal, real-life relations and ultimately cuts us off from reality. But technology, like any tool, is just what you use it for, and I'm more often struck by how it helps me stay in touch with near and dear ones no matter the geographical distance.

Only yesterday I was looking through some of all my unread RSS-feeds and came across this touching blog post from Kaz, a former flatmate of mine. We have both moved away from London - she to France, me to Norway - and haven't seen each other for many years, but we stay in touch on Facebook, and I read her blog.

But back to that blogpost: she describes her relationship with an old and lonely neighbour of hers when she had her own flat in England (I can't quite remember the name of the place now, but it was past Loughton on the Central line, so we're probably talking Essex). This man was always very helpful to her while she lived there, probably because she "saw" him, and she had found herself wondering how he was doing in the years since she moved away. Then her husband recently spotted a figure on Google Street View in that very same area she used to live, and Kaz thought it must be him getting on with his life. It may or may not have been,  but it's a touching thought. Now, if he only he was on Facebook...

Update 19/03-2010 09:30 CET: On the other hand, would I have been happy to find myself on Google Street View without any prior knowledge (or consent)? Probably not, it would give me a queasy "big brother is watching you" kinda feeling. I much prefer to be able to choose whether or not I want to sign up for that visibility myself.

"Is your blog really a blog if it has no photos of shoes on it?"

The headline quote belongs to Ida Jackson, aka Virrvarr, who told Oslo’s first Twestival last fall that this is a question she’s often met with when she talks to senior high school students in Norway about blogging.

Whereas, at least according to the last blog rankings I’ve seen, the most read UK blogs are political blogs (please correct me if I’m wrong here), in Scandinavia, the most read blogs, by far, are "glamour blogs". Mostly written by girls in their late teens and early twenties, these blogs all have a diary-like form with lots of photos – especially of shoes, make-up, clothes, accessories and/or the blogger trying out new shoes, clothes, make-up and hairstyles.

Among Norwegian teenagers this photo-based blog style is so pervasive that it is the text-based blogs that come across as weird, unusual and simply not adhering to common blogging practice.


Even among text-based blogs, I’ve seen the conception of what blogging is change with new ”generations” taking to blogging, so here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

I’m fascinated by how the blogosphere grows and evolves and how new voices emerge and then establish themselves as thought leaders or trendsetters to new generations of bloggers. While thinking about how the blogosphere has evolved and is evolving, I’ve come to think that it makes sense to talk about generations of bloggers, as different generations often have different ideals, myths, heroes, ideas of what value blogging has.

These values are often summed up in who they see as thought leaders or trendsetters: who are the bloggers they look up to and are inspired by, who are they trying to emulate, who do they consider their peers, who do they hang out with. For the sake of clarity: I’m not saying that you should try to emulate other bloggers, but in some parts of the blogosphere it’s an accurate description of what’s going on.

For my own part, I discovered blogging in 2002 via friends who were early, and passionate bloggers. That discovery got me reading blogs and even books about blogging, but, blaming my deadlines and general lack of time, I didn’t start blogging myself until a friend set up a blog for me in September 2005, and it took me until January 2006 to really get going (my loss).

The bloggers I really admire are folks like Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Confused of Calcutta, Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis - all thinking bloggers with a knack for making complex ideas sound simple, for capturing the zeitgeist in powerful and sometimes though-provoking metaphors. Not that I always agree with what they say, but I’m a big fan of the ease with which they discuss sometimes complex trends, ideas and technology and how reading them often gives me plenty of food for thought.

My friend Adriana, who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place, can also be trusted to always give me something to chew on when she finds time to blog. But the bloggers I read most frequently are those who blog about the issues closest to my own field of interest, such as Kevin and Suw, Adam Tinworth, Robin Hamman, Paul Bradshaw, Richard Sambrook, Martin Stabe, Alan Mutter, Robert Picard, Hans Kullin, Undercurrent, Roy Greenslade, Joanna Geary etc.

The great thing is that there is also a steady new inflow of bloggers writing well on editorial development, on media economy, on the intersection between journalism and social media, on free speech etc. – and I do of course read and find pleasure in lots of other blogs as well - including scores of Norwegian blogs and some Swedish, Danish, German and… oh well, blogs from many parts of the world. But my references are very far from everyone’s references.

To some it’s Seth Godin , Brian Solis, Chris Brogan and other leading bloggers they look to, but often those who started blogging in 2009 will refer to blogs who emerged in 2008 or 2007, fashion blogs will have a whole different set of references, as will of course political bloggers.

I’ve always thought age is a state of mind, and with bloggers I think who they identify with, who they hang out with online, and what they’re trying to achieve is more indicative of what ”generation of bloggers” they belong to than the age of the blog or blogger. Among other things, this leads to the very obvious conclusion that how you measure if a blog is successful depends on what you set out to achieve – for instance, I would have thought I’d done something seriously wrong if I had been invited to a glam party on the basis of my blog, though to a glam blogger it would understandably be very gratifying – but there’s something much more important at work here.

What will blogging be in the future? A blog is of course only a platform, but in the part of the blogosphere I grew up there are strong implicit ethical guidelines, very clear ideas about what blogging is and isn’t, what good blogging is and isn’t.

Where do these ideas stem from? I found myself at loss when I tried to pinpoint it (in Norwegian). I could think of books and bloggers and discussions that helped shape my own ideas about this, but no one source. There’s a whole industry that’s grown up around teaching good and/or effective blogging strategies, around advising companies on social media strategy and issues, but as new practitioners enter the arena they also bring their own, or their thought leaders’, ideas to bear on what social media and blogging is.

My point? Only that blogging, and the conception of what it is, is changing and I’m trying to find a good vocabulary to describe that change while also being fascinated by what shapes the change; what effect it has now and will have long term. What is your take on all this? Who are your thought leaders? What are your daily fixes? I’d be grateful for any input as these are questions I’ve found myself thinking a lot about recently.

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