News, media & communications

If the face fits ...

Here’s a really nasty idea: MTV (US) has launched a show called ‘I want a famous face’. In it people who don’t like what they look like compete to win plastic surgery to make them look like someone famous. A sort of low self –esteem meets celebrity show. Who’s worse, the people who make it, the people in it or the people who watch it?

Source: Newsweek (US).

Win a baby

Can TV crawl any lower? You bet. Be My Baby is a US TV show in which couples compete to win an unwanted child (we’re not making this up). The winning couple is chosen at the end of the show by the baby’s real birth mother.

Source: The Times (UK).

A Face that just doesn't fit.

The Face magazine was a style bible of the 1980s that, along with Blitz and ID magazines, virtually invented club culture and alternative fashion in the UK. The Face was innovative for a number of reasons. It used graphics to liven up text and used visual irony to give it an underground feel. So why has the title closed after 24 years? The main reason is Darwinian. What starts off as a mutation often becomes the norm. Other magazines (and newspapers) have adopted many of its ideas and competitors like Dazed and Confused have caught the new Zeitgeist. The market for magazines has also fragmented and there is no longer a tribe of sufficient size to make things add up commercially.

Source: Spiked-online (UK).

White Queen Syndrome

‘White Queen Syndrome’ (WQS) is named after the Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass who screamed before she pricked her finger. An example of WQS is news. Increasingly news consists not of bad things that have happened but of analysis and prediction about bad things that might.

Source: The Atlantic Monthly (US).

Video nicey

A video game has been launched in the US that teaches kids about fighting famine in the third world.

Source: Asian Wall Street Journal (HK).


A company in the UK is planning to launch a device, which allows people to send and receive scented emails. The ‘scent dome’ (pong pod?) will release popular smells like roses, coffee, chocolates and fresh bread.

Source: The Reader (Aus).

i-Pod, me-Pod, we-Pod

Can't be bothered to load 10,000 song into your new iPod? Then you need WePod, a company that will do it all for you (at a cost of GB £1 per CD).

Source: The Week (UK).

No time for news

Lack of time is the #1 source of stress for Americans. Over in Switzerland it's led to the creation of 20 Minuten - a mini newspaper  that can be read in under 20 minutes. The paper is already Switzerland's second largest paper.

Source: (US).

Nothing is ever dead centre

BBC journalists have been sent on 'impartiality seminars' following the Hutton report according to the Sunday Times.

Source: The Sunday Times (UK).

For sale: everything

A woman in Wales (UK) recently put one of her kidney's up for sale at GB £30,000 on an internet auction site. Previous items for sale have included a man's soul and a woman's virginity.

Source: The Guardian (UK).

Walk to work

A report on sustainable communities in the UK has recommended that urban planners start building housing estates, shopping centres, hospitals and schools that are not isolated from each other or only accessible by car. Once upon a time these places were called villages.

Source: The Guardian (UK).

If you liked this, try this

Given the difficulty of getting people to try new things it’s strange that people don’t spend more time talking to the customers they’ve already got. Harper Collins (the publisher) has come up with a novel way to sell more books. Some bright spark has realised that they own ‘space’, so why not use this space (in the back of books) to provide information and recommend other books. Most books contain information about the author, and other books he or she has written, but it’s usually a bit of a short story. Harper Collins has transferred an idea from and included a section called ‘if you liked this, try these”. They’ve also included a more detailed biography of the author, a list of the author’s favourite books, a Q&A section and a review of the reviews. And, being really clever, they’ve put the first chapter of the author’s new book at the end of the previous one.

Source: Sydney Talks (AUS).

A not very beautiful mind

‘Mass Media in a Mass Society’ is an elegant and eloquent attack, by Richard Hoggart, on the way that the media has coarsened the public mind. Not very long ago there were night schools in towns and cities across Britain where the people sought to improve themselves intellectually. The media (notably the BBC) had a mandate to educate. Now the media just stimulates. We have ‘Footballers Wives’ and Pop Idle (sic). Part of the blame lies with a media that has no interest in how we think or act. It’s also the fault of intellectuals who have distanced themselves from the public. The result is a consumption-obsessed society that neither thinks nor participates.

Source: Financial Times (UK).

The New (Improved) Yorker

Sales of the New Yorker have increased by 20% since 1998. The reason is a new energy and optimism caused in part by the fact that the magazine has published stories that are ‘timely and connected to the world”. Is this evidence of the end of dumbing down or just a reaction to 9/11 and Iraq?

Source: New York Times (US).

We know where you live

A Los Angeles based magazine, writing a story about privacy and direct marketing, sent 40,000 copies to subscribers with their name and a picture of their house on the cover. The headline said: “they know where you live”.

Source: The Times (UK).


Ring tones now represent 10% of the global music market (that’s US $4 billion according to Ringtone magazine). Why the rapid growth? It’s partly the sheer number of phones, but it’s also because we like to express our individuality in public. They’re also dead easy to buy (over the phone).

Source: Sydney Morning Herald. (AUS).

Pic -a-ling-a-ling

Video ring tones have been seen on mobile phones in Japan (just as we predicted).

Source: (NETH).

Need a new idea? - use an old one

Retro advertising seems to be all the rage in the UK with ad agencies dusting off classics like 'Beanz Meanz Heinz', Secret Lemonade Drinker and the Milky Bar Kid. Premier Foods has even launched a range of merchandise for the Smash Martians ('for Mash Get Smash') despite the fact that the ad hasn't been seen in over a decade. Why is retro so popular? Partly it's because using old ads is a "short-cut to tap into awareness". But it's also because we live in anxious times and nostalgia is a route back to a safer, more comfortable world.

Source: The Independent (UK).

Need a new presenter? - get an old one

We just love it when stories fit together like this! Traditional wisdom (an oxymoron?) says that TV is besotted with youth. Presenters should be new, young and fresh faced. So what on earth is going on at the BBC and ITV in Britain? Both broadcasters are hiring ‘mature’ personalities like Michael Parkinson (69), Bruce Forsyth (76) and the Two Ronnies (73 & 74) for prime time slots. And they’re not alone. MTV has just hired Leslie Phillips (80). Why? Partly it’s nostalgia again but it’s also demographic. Over 50s are the fastest growing segment of the population and many of these older presenters have cross-over appeal between generations.
Or as someone put it: “We’re all middle-aged these days - Even Sesame Street is 35”.

Source: The Guardian (UK).

Cybersex gets really close to real life

Singles: Flirt Up Your Life is a German video game that is a cross between the Sims and Big Brother. The basic idea is to adopt a character and then try to sleep with one or more of the other characters. What makes the game quite interesting is the fact that you can’t just jump into bed with anyone you like. First you have to take care of personal hygiene, decorate your shag pad and then flirt. And if you don’t invest in the emotional side of your relationship(s), your virtual fantasy takes off and moves in with someone else.

Source: Metro (UK).

Networked clubbing

What happens when you cross a club with a GPS equipped mobile phone? In Denmark the answer is called Hvem er ibyen. It works like this. When you enter a participating club or bar you scan yourself in at a terminal. This instantly sends your friends an SMS /text message telling them where you are. How about flipping this idea on it’s head and inventing something that invites people you don’t know to join you?

Source: (NETH).

Big in Cyberspace

Netflix has 1.5 million subscribers, 18,000 titles and revenues of US $ 272 million (up 78% on the previous year). Not bad for a video rental company started 5 years ago. The trick? No stores. You order DVDs online and send them back in pre-paid envelopes. Given that disposable DVDs have just been invented (no need to send them back), it looks like the company has got a blockbuster on its hands.

Source: The Economist (UK).


A club in Manchester (UK) is holding ‘noWax’ nights in which the traditional DJ has been replaced by customers with iPods. Clubbers take a numbered ticket and play 3 songs from their iPod when their number is called. A similar idea is playing to large crowds at the APT club in New York where clubbers play a 7 minute set taken from two iPods acting like a giant jukebox.

Source: The Independent (UK).