News, media & communications


The Internet in 2020

A report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that by 2020 the Internet will still be thriving and most of the world will have low-cost access. This will lead to a continued ‘flattening’ of the world, which will benefit all nations. By 2020 the Internet will be more automated and will feature ‘smart agents’ and so-called mobile Internet (access from mobile rather than fixed devices) will be dominant with most mobile networks providing one-gigabit-per-second access anytime, anywhere. Overall, most of the 742 experts interviewed for the research broadly agreed about how the Internet might evolve but there was much less agreement on the implications of this evolution. However, a staggering 46 per cent of the experts said that they had serious reservations about the Internet’s future. Forty-two per cent of respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control or stay in charge of the Internet and 60 per cent predicted the development of some kind of technology ‘refuseniks’ or second Luddite rebellion. In some cases this ‘unplugging’ or living ‘off the network’ will be benign – simply a way to deal with information overload – but other more extreme cases could involve violence directed either at machines or at the people creating them. Other future predictions by the Project include increased transparency of people and institutions, less privacy and more Internet and virtual reality ‘addiction’
Ref: BBC News (UK) 26 September 2006 ‘Internet’s future in 2020 debated’ The Future of the Internet II, 24 September 2006. J. Anderson
and L Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University (US).
Search words: Internet, technology, communications

Is Cyworld the new Myspace?

Cyworld is a website that’s a mixture of blogger, Flickr and Myspace. In South Korea, home to the game, 18 million people are members of Cyworld and 90 per cent of South Koreans in their twenties play the game. Moreover, the company’s unique business model generates revenue of US$300,000 per day – or US$7 per user – largely from the sale of things that don’t actually exist. Access to Cyworld is free and members get their own mini-homepage and a ‘mini-me’ avatar that lives in a ‘mini-room’. However, the aim of the game is to personalise your mini-room to impress your friends and increase your social standing and this costs real money. Digital items used to decorate mini-rooms include furniture and appliances and these typically cost US$1 each with streamed music for your mini-homepage costing 50 cents. Businesses cannot advertise inside these rooms or on the mini-homepages but they can and do become Cyworld members themselves to build purely commercial ‘opt-in’ mini-homepages and mini-rooms.‘Cy’ is Korean for ‘relationship’ and the site is owned by SK Communications, a sister company of SK Telecom, Korea’s largest mobile services network.
Ref: Business 2.0 (US), August 2006 ‘Cyworld attacks’, E. Schonfeld.
Search words: Internet, social networks, Cyworld, virtual reality
The future of television
Are we about to witness the death of the television channel? The writing is already on the wall – to some extent. In the US, users of TiVo are effectively putting program schedulers out of business by creating their own schedules so they can watch programs when they want rather than when the networks broadcast them. TiVo is a black set-top box of tricks that allows users to copy hundreds of hours of TV to its hard disc. Programs can then be replayed later, skipping the commercials if you wish. However, the clever part is that periodically the box dials in to a computer that contains information about every show on TV. This allows you to select want you want to watch, either by subject, title or even by movie star. What’s more TiVo ‘learns’ what you like to watch and then makes recommendations based on your previous viewing. So theoretically in the future viewers could bypass the TV networks and choose programs direct from the makers. But perhaps it’s already too late. Websites like YouTube have already partly stolen Gen Y from the major US networks. For example, the MTV awards experienced a 28 per cent drop in viewership this year compared to last and almost 80 per cent of teens in the US are unable to name the four major US TV networks. By the way, if you need further evidence of the fragmentation of the TV audience consider this. Two decades ago there were 225 TV programmes in the UK that were watched by more than 15 million people. By 2004 there were only 10.
Ref: Red Herring (US), 18 September 2006, ‘Anyone still want MTV?’ Australian (Aus), 16-17 September 2006, ‘Not Content’,
G. Blundell.
Search words: Television, TiVo

Video on demand

Now that it’s possible to download a feature-length movie at home from the Internet does this mean the beginning of the end for the local video rental store? In theory, yes, but we are still a long way away from the day when movies can be downloaded in seconds.In Australia, for example, it typically takes 30 to 90 minutes to download a full-length movie. Nevertheless, it’s only a matter of time before the process speeds up and innovations like movies that expire 24-hours after you view them (available already) will be much more convenient than having to return tapes or DVDs to the video hire shop. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that video stores will disappear entirely. What will probably happen (eventually) is that instant downloads will dominate the market but giant movie rental stores will remain selling movies plus the assorted paraphernalia for a great night in (ice cream, pizza, drinks etc). There will also be boutique video stores much in the same way that there are still boutique bookshops despite the presence of online bookstores like Amazon. These niche operators will specialise in art films or particular genres of film and will be run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. The rest of us will have 30-second downloads for viewing on a range of devices ranging from iPods and laptops to computer-enabled TV sets.
Ref: Sydney Morning Herald (Aus), 23-24 September 2006, ‘ Movies on Demand’, L. Christopher.
Search words: Video on demand, video, video rental, video retail, downloads

The future of newspapers (again)

Are newspapers history? It’s a question that we’ve asked before and it’s a subject that won’t go away. To some extent the debate is a cyclical panic brought on by the success of websites like YouTube but it’s also a very real issue created by the likes of Craig’s list – the online classified ads site that is siphoning advertising revenue away from old media giants like the New York Times. When they function well, newspapers represent a nation talking amongst itself, and are key instrument for democratic societies in holding their governments and companies to account. Newspapers also set the news agenda that the rest of the media (including new media) follows throughout the day. However, readership is falling globally (although not if you include online editions) and advertising revenue is moving online. For example, in Switzerland and the Netherlands 50 per cent of newspaper classifieds have now moved online. The response from many newspapers is to follow the market downmarket – introducing endless ‘lifestyle’ and ‘infotainment’ sections – but this is not news and it is not the future either. An alternative, at the top end of the market at least, is for proprietors to invest more in journalists and return to proper investigative journalism. But this rarely produces anything more than a short-term spike in circulation and is often followed by litigation or the withdrawal of advertising from the company or organisation under scrutiny. Another solution is to actually print what people want to read. For example, newspapers are almost unique in their lack of segmentation – everyone aged from 18 to 98 years old reads the same newspaper. Perhaps segmentation, along with a more ‘snack-sized’ format, would appeal to people with very little time. This latter route has been tried by many of the free commuter newspapers such as Metro, which now account for 16 per cent of all daily circulation in Europe. But as any classical economist would point out, price is a measure of value so something that’s free can’t have very much. What is certain is that the newspaper industry is suffering from a crisis of confidence and business models, both off and online, are still in a sate of flux.
Ref: The Economist (UK), 26 August 2006, ‘Who killed the newspaper?’; See also The Australian (Aus) 7 September 2006, ‘Newspaper survival’.
Search words: Newspapers, journalism