Friday, September 29, 2006

YouTube morons

Not everyone loves YouTube. Dotcom billionaire investor Mark Cuban is no fan.

He had some very severe words for YouTube and says that anyone who buys it would be a moron.

This is clearly going to make the digital executives at companies like News Corporation and Viacom sit up. They had, no doubt, been running the slide rule over the video-sharing business with a view to possibly snapping the thing up.

Cuban, who co-founded of HDNet and owns the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks, has predicted that YouTube will be "sued into oblivion" on the back of copyright violations.

"They are just breaking the law. The only reason it hasn't been sued yet is because there is nobody with big money to sue."

It has been a constant problem for YouTube, but it is going some way to sort this out, by signing deals with the likes of Warner Music Group.

It signed a deal with Warner to avoid legal action for breach of copyright.

It is also in talks with other major record companies, including EMI about hosting old and current music videos for its users to view for free.

The discussions are believed to centre on the nature of the business model and how it will balance free viewing with ad revenue and revenue for the labels and their artists. Question is whether all this is enough. Just take a look and you will find lots and lots of copyrighted material on YouTube.

YouTube's ambition is to have "every music video ever created" up on the site, according to its co-founder Steve Chen.

YouTube already has more than 100m video showings daily, which has of course led to speculation that the firm will be sold or taken public.

Just yesterday Yahoo! snapped up another video-sharing firm Jumpcut. No news on how much it paid.

Cuban reckons that unlike other rivals in the social media space, there is a reason YouTube hasn't had an IPO or been sold and it is because it is going to be "toasted".

"User-generated content is not going away," he said. "But do you want your advertising dollars spent on a video of Aunt Jenny watching her niece tap dance?"

"Somebody puts up something really good and you get, what, 60,000 viewers?"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Spoilt BBC

Jim Marshall has really thrown his toys out of the pram this time.

One of Marshall's favourite subjects is the BBC. Any article ever written about the BBC, the chairman of Starcom Group UK, will be there telling anyone who will listen that the BBC is killing the commercial sector, ITV in particular.

He is convinced that the all-conquering BBC is the source of many of the commercial sector's ills.

No Jim, really -- poor programming is largely the fault of that. ITV cooked its own goose long ago, with many years of crap ('Celebrity Wrestling', 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' or 'Rock Around the Block' anyone?) helped along by the burgeoning multichannel market.

He even knows it’s not that hot. Last year, he criticised ITV for not spending enough money to promote its schedule and focusing only on 18- to 34-year-olds in its summer schedule.

Speaking at the Future of TV seminar yesterday, Marshall characterised the BBC as a "spoilt child" that had been allowed too much rope to pursue commercial direction activity.

In Jim's mind, this means making popular programming that draws away ratings from ITV, which he knows lots about as a media agency boss. Jim is, also, an ITV expert, what with Starcom having held the £10m ITV media account for a decade until it resigned it in February 2005.

For someone who works in the commercial sector, there's one thing that he hates more than anything else and that's competition, which he spoke about at the seminar.

"I don't think 'The X-Factor' should be run up against the BBC's own show and that's what the BBC indulges in. How is that a public service?" Yes, what the BBC should be doing is broadcasting 24 hours of documentaries and public service announcements all year round, and not aiming for the light entertainment market. Actually, going on programmes such as 'Rome' and 'The Blue Planet', that would not be a bad idea.

If only ITV could compete with similar high quality programming.

Well, a public service is also about offering a choice among other things. If ITV is producing top quality programming that everyone wants to watch then what's the problem? A little competition is healthy, right?

Of course, if ITV is not producing best in show, then that's another matter and it deserves having viewers turning over, after paying their hefty licence fee, and watching something on the BBC instead. Even if it happens to be quite similar, but not the same, as what’s on ITV. And probably better too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sosumi

Apple owns the word "pod", OK? And just so we're clear, it's called in its favourite people: the lawyers.

Apple wants to stop a start-up firm, Podcast Ready, offering podcasts direct to digital players. Apple claims to own the term pod on mobile devices and software, and has demanded that a start-up stop using the word in marketing its application for updating podcasts on digital media players.

Apple is, in its own way, being funny about it saying that it doesn't object per se to the term Podcast Ready... just to its use in connection to mobile devices.

Apple probably has a point. It did, as far as MP3 players are concerned, coin the whole pod thing. Although its argument that people use the word "pod" as an abbreviation of their iPod is total crap. Why would you? That's nonsense. I mean who does that?

Russell Holliman, chief executive and founder of Podcast Ready, said: "I had to read the letter three times, because I couldn't believe I was reading it properly. I never in my life ever met anyone who calls it (the iPod) a Pod."

The lawsuit could ruin Podcast Ready's chances of raising further capital and hit it hard as it gears up for trade show product launches, but that's lawyers for you. They are the only people this can be good news for, being the only winners in all of this, as usual. They get so much practise working for Apple.

Only last month, Apple settled with Singapore-based technology firm Creative about a copyright infringement relating to the iPod, which saw it pay out £53m.

Earlier in the year it beat The Beatles, who claimed Apple was moving into music with iTunes, which is contra to their earlier agreement with the Fab Four’s Apple Corp.

There is, of course, an old joke about this. One of the sounds that you get on the Mac is the xylophone-type sound dubbed Sosumi. Apple claim it is a Japanese word rather than two fingers to Paul McCartney and did no in fact translate as "so sue me".

The Apple boys have a long history of such wordplay gags.

In 1994, Apple code-named the Power Macintosh 7100 "Carl Sagan" after the astronomer, TV presenter and sci-fi writer of such books as 'Contact'.

It was meant probably as a homage internally, but then Apple had models codenamed "Cold Fusion” (pie in the sky science) and "Piltdown Man” (fake anthropology), which got Mr Sagan thinking that really Apple were taking the piss. He sued and lost and Apple changed the name to "BHA."

This seemed fine, except BHA was a TLA for "Butt-Head Astronomer", which is not so nice. Cue second suit, which he lost again, prompting Apple geeks to come up with a new TLA, this time "LAW" or "Lawyers Are Wimps". Of course, I could think of a better variation on that, but this is a family blog so really I shouldn't.

Read more about Apple's legal wrangles on Wikipedia

Still no word yet on whether Apple will sue Douglas Coupland for his novel, 'jPod', the follow-up to 'Microserfs'.

I mean he has taken the name. Surely the lawyers should be on this?

You make it

Advertising is getting in on the YouTube phenomenon and is asking punters to make their own ads.

Frito-Lay and Chevrolet have got in on the whole user-generated-content buzz and holding a competition for people to submit their own ads.

The winners will get to see their work featured as part of Super Bowl XLI campaigns. Oh, there will be money and prizes as well.

As well as appearing on the biggest event in the advertising calendar the spots will, of course, appear online as well on the likes of YouTube turning into viral, which I think would make it free advertising.

Although the campaigns will be vetted before airing anywhere, so they will not quite be like some of the more unfettered content you've probably already see on YouTube.

Frito-Lay will allow consumers to vote for the winning ad, from five finalists it chooses, ensuring that it doesn't end up with anything it doesn't like. Chevrolet is leaving nothing to chance and plans to choose the winner with its agency.

The risk is, as with any UGC or content written by the user, that people will tell you exactly what they think and it might not always be good.

Just look what happened to Chevy the last time it got involved in UGC.

It ran a competition to allow people to create their own ad for the new 2007 Chevy Tahoe, and got something it didn't like: a rant against global warming.

One person, a Popbitch poster called Reverend Goatboy, created a spot that shows great shots of the new 4x4 Chevy racing off-road and sitting on top of glacial peaks, which was fine except the text accompanying the ads read like this.

"The arseholes who run the USA... and the people that use these..."..

With spots costing around $2.5m a pop at the Super Bowl you can bet that Chevrolet and Frito Lay will be treading very carefully in the run up to the February 4 game.

There's more on this story in the New York Times today.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

User generated content

I've been thinking a lot about User Generated Content, as I suppose everyone else has and think there is a great untapped resource out there that could be turned into online ad revenue.

Everybody has read about the integration of newspaper news rooms online, which is interesting and offers one direction about the development of multimedia additions to newspapers and other online products, but just as interesting is opening up what could be a (controlled) flood of essentially free user generated content.

This has in small ways already started to sit alongside traditionally professional journalism written by reporters, writers and columnists. We've seen it as blogs (on Comment for Free for example and elsewhere) and we've seen it as uploaded video, pictures and eye witness reportage (July 7 highlighted this) is sent in and published (CNN has started to formalise this a little earlier this year with its Citizen journalism development), but so far not altogether large scale.

There's much more opportunity and I think part of this links into publishers defending themselves against the encroachment of powerful social networking sites and other online developments (flikr/Youtube/Wikipedia etcetera), whose mix of content and reach can only grow.

If you look at your business I think this can work in most core areas although some more than others. For instance, think about media, sport and music, three areas where there is a huge scope for UGC blogs and news/multimedia reportage.

There are a lot of people out there (readers/users/others attracted to the power of publishing brands) who could be pulled in and brought onboard to create content with major publishing groups in the form of blogs/news/multimedia, which would in turn create the potential for a major community development (boards, systems of rating, other forms of interaction).

I recently went looking at Brand Republic for people to blog on the site. Literally just asking for people with ideas. Not all will go the distance, but easily came up with 30 who had concrete ideas, commitment and willingness (as of course its all for free) to create free content and pages and pages of ad inventory.

You can throw news/reportage into that mix as well, be it of gigs, sporting fixtures or whatever (some subject areas are obviously going to lend themselves to multiple forms of UGC, while others less so).

Some of this content could be integrated alongside existing professional products (as additional sections) strengthening what is already there, while the rest would exist on parallel bespoke UGC sites, which have the attraction for those doing it of sitting under your brand.

This could give you a whole family of UGC covering the your entire business.

I think people will be strongly attracted to creating UGC for major online brands such as Guardian Unlimited because of the power and attraction of the brand, which they probably already have a relationship with (as a reader) and want to take further.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dead Glamorous

Glamour magazine has got itself in trouble asking for photogenic war widows.

A report in The Independent today tells about how a journalist, Victoria Lambert, working for the handbag-sized glossy sent an email out to the Military Families Against the War about an upcoming feature.

The email asked if the group could provide case-studies of women, aged between 30 and 38, whose husbands had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Not only did it want war widows, it wanted good-looking ones.

"Glamour is very looks-conscious so, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, they need to be photogenic, or at least comfortable in front of a camera!. The editor likes to approve each case history, so when I send her a short bio ("X is aged X and lost her husband X in the war X") she likes to see a jpeg pic too. I know this is a big ask, but it's something she demands! Hey ho!"

Hey ho? Oh boy, why not chuck in a couple more exclamation marks Vicky.

She who demands, editor Jo Elvin, said she was outraged. Oh to work on a glossy women's magazine.

Funnily enough, the war widows group has said it will not cooperate.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Whose space

MySpace has signed its first branded community deal with Unilever. It's going to be interesting to see how this goes down.

There was, from the start of News Corporation's $580m acquisition of MySpace, speculation that it would lead to commercialisation.

That's not a problem in itself, commercialisation has to have a place, as even before Murdoch bought MySpace it was a business. The problem comes when things start to get over commercialised.

Towel Boy has some fun elements and is unlikely to piss off too many people. There are 136 comments on the site already, which appear to be real, most rolling with the fun of a quite amusing idea. Women like it, as well -- it's a hot guy in a towel. And some men like it, because well it's a hot guy in a towel, and the rest don't seem to mind.

There's been a decent effort to create content and enrich the whole experience. Personally, I'm not sure why I would become a friend of Towel Boy... what with him not actually being a real boy or for that matter what a community of Lynx users might do? Meet and spray each other with deodorant? I'm not so sure about that, I have allergies.

But some are clearly going to see this as another sign of more fakeness on MySpace, particularly of the celebrity variety. In many cases, the work of stars' and celebrities' marketing helpers making everything too corporate and less authentic -- whatever that means.

Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, has cautioned that advertisers are blurring the line "between authentic content creation and advertising", saying that it all could backfire.

That is the danger, cooking the golden goose and blowing all of this away and forcing people to move on and go elsewhere.

Blackshaw has said that MySpace will particularly vulnerable as it introduces more "blended" product advertising pages, like the Lynx page.

"That's the zone that is sort of unproven. It potentially has a higher turn-off factor because consumers may perceive it as 'over the line'."

At the moment it's novel, but as more and more brands come on board that's when it stops being novel and starts to become tiresome. Well, so the argument goes anyway. That is unless brands can start to offer something more and give something back to these communities -- rather than just take their custom.

I'm not sure what it is, but as this sort of marketing spreads, brands need to up their game to keep pace. Doing more of what Lynx has done will work for a while, but then we will need to see it adapt.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Frosted

Possibly one of the worst ads for a major brand you will ever have the misfortune to see - the Kellogg's Frosties ad.

It's old but it is so bad we can't let it pass without comment. Besides the Brand Republic sales team seem to be obsessed by it. Leo Burnett the agency behind it really should hang their heads in shoddy shame. I've been torturing everyone in the office by playing it. I know that is pretty mean.

The Guardian summed it up recently when it said that all Kellogg's marketing department wanted was to make an ad featuring a chirpy young chappy skipping his way through the streets like a sugary Pied Piper.

Not quite the imagery you want when Kellogg's is under the spotlight in the battle against child obesity.

Still as The Guardian put it rather than getting some angelic young choirboy with a great voice, they end up with a croaky young Mick Jones, but without the cool skipping along like his on children's Prozac.

It should be taken off the air immediately, not to mention removed from the web and anywhere else it can be found. Watch it at your own peril.

There was an urban rumour that the South African kid featured in the ad had killed himself after bullying, but its not true.

The Sun tracked him down earlier this month. For his own protection the youth would only reveal his name as Sven. He stated: "Can't these fools distinguish between me and a character in an advert?"

This Life

It's coming back and everyone in the office is kind of excited. You can guess how old everyone is.

Is it really 10 years on from when BBC Two first ran 'This Life'? Ouch. I rewatched this in its entirety on DVD earlier this year, courtesy of Amazon's DVD rental service partly to check that it was as good as there's so little else on that matches it.

It ended on a brilliant high note. A punch up at the wedding of Miles (Jack Davenport's) as Milly (Amita Dhiri) took on her rival Natasha Little. As the women scrapped in walked Warren (Jason Hughes – the Welsh one) back from his travelling who utters just one word: "outstanding", which kind of summed it up.

'This Life' was blessed with fine writing and a fine cast of characters, which as well as Miles has ), Egg (Andrew Lincoln) and Anna (Daniela Nardini). Lincoln, of course, went on to be in teachers where he played…Egg.

Haven't seen much of the ret of the them, but he memory and the familiarity of the house the shared lingers on.

Partly, it worked so well as everyone lived in a house like that at one stage and had a similar cast of characters (five storey Georgian near Clerkenwell – that'll be Kings Cross really, Ed).

Everyone wanted it to comeback for a third series and I'm sure it was considered before the writers and cast walked away and moved on.

I've always thought it a major failure of British television that so often the quality of ideas and performances of shows such as 'This Life' are thrown away too soon.

Why is it that we don't have this shows that run for five or six years rather than one or two (there are some exceptions such as 'Cold Feet').

You always hear that people want to leave it while its good, but we never get the chance to evaluate for long enough beyond its first two years.

In the States they get five if not seven years (the magic syndication number) of great shows like 'The West Wing (oh how we miss you), 'The Sopranos', and Sex and the City' et cetera.

Still mustn't grumble a one of show is better than nothing. The 90-minute episode has an intriguing set-up as our twenty somethings are now well into their thirtysomething years (sounds familiar) and one of the group has become a success after writing a book (Egg? Well he did try and start before his old man beat him to it) based on their friendship and a TV production company is keen to film the group's reunion.

Sounds like it could have elements of a docu-drama, all very post modern. We'll get to see if Miles managed to stay the course in marriage after marrying someone who told him she was 30 when in fact she was 37.

Everyone has to betting on a Miles and Anna get together if not for a happy ending then at least as an on/off/on/off affair.

Coupon cheats

Newspapers and brands spend as much as £70m a year on coupons, but the whole thing could be riddled by fraud.

According to a report on the Marketingblog there is a general consensus, backed by market research, that such mechanisms are being accepted at the checkout without the related product even being bought.

The blog quotes Edwin Mutton, director general of the Institute of Sales Promotion, saying that as much as 30% of coupons have their value/discount easily given without the retailer adhering to the published rules for redemption.

Furthermore, the ISP reckons that this malpractice has doubled in the last year and is only getting worse.

The ISP is backing a campaign to tackle the issue. Read more on the Marketingblog.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Indy fears

New-media fears at The Independent are none too surprising for a company that hasn't invested in online while its rivals have.

A report carried by The Guardian focuses on Independent chief executive Ivan Fallon's scepticism about the huge investment being made in online by other newspaper groups.

Fallon has voiced concern about how newspapers will integrate their print and online operations and he doesn't believe newspaper reporters are necessarily suited to the kind of multimedia journalism that the newspaper groups are focusing on.

"The difficulty is getting print journalists to adapt to new media -- most print journalists do not translate very easily to podcasts or radio or TV. To call upon reporters to turn round and broadcast their stories on the internet and make stories available in real time -- I don't see a model for monetising that."

His comments have come following activity by the Telegraph Group and the multimillion pound investment the group has made in creating a "newsroom of the future".

Fallon's comments, defensive in nature, are not surprising, since it’s well known that The Independent hardly has two buttons to rub together when it comes to online activity, while its rivals, led by The Guardian, push the boundaries of new media activity.

He, and I think the Telegraph Group, are taking the whole thing too literally. Newspaper groups should experiment and develop new streams of activity, be it blogging (like the Guardian's Comment is Free), podcasting or web TV, but it doesn't necessarily have to be all done by the same people in the exact same place.

Yes, there will be some newspaper journalists who want to multi-task and make excellent radio presenters/podcasters, or columnists who are naturals are reading their pieces so that they can be downloaded.

Others might look good on TV, but not all and there is no reason for them to. The core business of newspaper groups has changed. Of course, they will continue to produce perfectly good newspapers, but alongside those papers will be an equally large related operation that produces many different types of content that involves different kinds of skills.

Where there is symmetry, there should be integration, but there is no reason to force square pegs into round holes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Divorce

Google and Belgium have fallen out. Who's next?

Online publishers have fretted for a while what to do about Google. The site loved by many takes everybody's news and puts it in one place. In doing so, it makes it all about Google and less about the content owners and the problem is getting worse.

Google is already heading off into new content areas. Adding books, multimedia and, of course, it already owns blogs although its been slow to integrate Blogger content with the rest of its news content.

That's what I would have done, as well as creating a nice big blog homepage. Why doesn't it have that as well?

I digress. The ruling by the Belgian court means Google has to stop reproducing articles from French-speaking newspapers in the news section.

Clearly having looked at the problem, the Belgians decided the answer to Google was simple: divorce.

They might be onto something, although total divorce is possibly going a step too far. One of the key parts of the case was that Google News was considered an "information portal" rather than a plain search engine.

We all know that Google is much more than that. One of the great things about Google is that news, the news of media owners that is, hangs around on its site for days. You don't have to visit various media owners (Brand Republic included) because it's all there in one place until the moment you decide to click through and read something.

The complaint, which was made by copyright organisation Copiepresse, all comes down to the central issue of money. Publishers have all this content, Google takes it for free and in the process makes billions as part of its overall business.

Google might well have to consider paying in some form if this move in Belgium, small but the cause of global strife over the years, spreads. Google faces similar legal challenges from Agence-France Presse, which is also seeking monetary damages, and it could face problems in Germany and the Netherlands.

Yahoo! has paid some publishers since the early days of the web, and why not? Content is still king.

Google says it plans to fight the move.

"We are disappointed by the decision, which we believe is flawed and which we intend to appeal. We believe this case was entirely unnecessary. There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs."

The latest NRS figures out today again had total newspaper and magazine readership down, as more and more readers and ad revenue goes online. With the digital market being so important , particularly to publishers, they have to find new ways to earn revenue.

If Google siphons off their digital revenues that just makes their job harder. They need to find ways of reversing the situation and that comes back to the same old problem of making sites more sticky. Users themselves offer part of a solution because they create content (threads, blogs, user-written news), which can be incorporated alongside more traditional content.

D’oh!

Radio 4's 'Today' programme seems to have lost its marbles. They've given them to Pete Doherty.

Pete Doherty, the Babyshambles singer and full-time fan of class-A drugs, is apparently to be a guest editor of Radio 4's Today programme in December.

His edition of the show will comprise the following. He won't turn up, but will phone in from prison/court/rehab/the window of his flat. Top stories will be about how to buy a second-hand jag (he's had like 10), how to get hold of your get out of jail free card and date a supermodel. Oh and some stuff about drugs, but he was sort of incoherent on the phone so it’s hard to say what he was talking about.

Doherty will be one of the guests lined up in December for 'Today's' annual celeb presenter moment. Past guests have included Bono; the Duchess of York; Lord Tebbit; the film director Anthony Minghella; and Professor Stephen Hawking.

It will be worth tuning in for a rehab moment. According to reports, Doherty is due to meet BBC radio producers after he finishes his latest stint in rehab.

You must have read about his latest rehab session -- he's teamed up with Justin Hawkins from the Darkness and Keane's Tom Chaplin to form a rehab super group. They haven't actually produced any music. I hope the guys are keeping an eye on their equipment, given that Doherty spent some time in chokey for stealing his former bandmate’s stuff.

Maybe Doherty will give a few hints of what it's like inside the Priory clinic in Southgate, where he went after he amazingly escaped jail yet again.

A BBC insider said: "The programme is going to be unique to say the least. With Pete in charge the only thing staff are expecting is the unexpected. ‘Today’ is renowned for its hard news coverage, current affairs and heavyweight politics -- but they believe Pete will be a good addition for their reputation in cultural circles."

Pete will be a good addition? Tell that to the Libertines. Oh wait, too late, they broke up.

The BBC are going to allow Doherty to make the decisions on what he thinks are the most important issues of the day. Maybe Bono can give him some tips although somehow you can't quite see Doherty championing the whole Make Poverty History campaign -- when he turned up at Live8, wasn't he off his head and rambled through a duet with Elton John?

It sounds like a winner. It could be better than Mick Rock (the legendary photographer) and his Xfm show on Saturdays, where he spends several hours talking about himself and sounding totally stoned.

Maybe Kate Moss will come along too because last time they got together in a studio in turned out pretty well... well after the all the front page cocaine stories and people realizing that nobody cared that supermodels take drugs, so really have some more contracts, oh go on, make it £30m worth of new deals.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reality Dave

The Tories are hoping that reality television can save them. No really. The party's conference will borrow ideas from 'The Dragons' Den' and 'The X Factor' to inject some... who knows.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron has plundered ideas from 'The Dragons' Den' and 'The X Factor' (hasn't he already done that? I seem to remember he was going to pick his mayoral candidate in this fashion? Oh right, it didn't quite work due to lack of interest) in an attmpt to spice up this year's Conservative Party in sunny Bournemouth.

It's funny what a decade out of power will do to a party. Sadly, the Tories don't have a Sharon Osbourne, but they do have Ann Widdecombe... wait, is that a good thing?

Widdecombe will be transformed into a Tory "dragon", so not much of a makeover then, as party activists take part in 'X Factor'-style voting in some debates.

On BBC Two's entrepreneurial 'The Dragons' Den', of course, people with ideas to turn plastic ducks into cup holders try to win cash from the panel of business experts. With the Tories, four prospective candidates will take to the stage to sell a policy they want the Conservatives to adopt.

No news yet if the voting will lead to party policy, but it could be interesting. Strict new laws could be introduced on the hunting of paediatricians for instance.

I'd like to see the Dave borrow more from TV and maybe from my personal old school favourite 'Play Your Cards Right', it's the one where the audience shout out "higher" or "lower", this would be ideal for deciding Tory tax policy or spending on defence or the NHS. It would be a winner.

Reality TV shows are not the only thing Dave has turned borrower on. The party has also lined up Will Hutton to speak. Will, what are you doing? This is as bad as Bruno Gianelli switching from the Democrats to the Republicans... Oh wait, that happened in 'The West Wing' and not reality, but you can see how the whole thing starts to get confusing.

As talking of Republicans, US presidential hopeful Senator John McCain is also appearing, having taken Dave's invitation to come on down.

Widdecombe will be joined by policy chief Oliver Letwin and Rachel Elnaugh, one of the entrepreneurs from the show.

Wait a second, wasn't Elnaugh the one whose company Red Letter Days went down in flames? Failed and flopped and had to be rescued? So it was. What a bonus to get her input.

House Arrest - Lonelygirl 15

Okay, so it's all a hoax, but fun while it lasted. Many of those who've been watching Lonelygirl 15 suspected it was a hoax, but it's so hard to tell, because in Hollywood you have to be in your early 20s before you're old enough to play high school kids in movies.

Looking the production quality and the added music, it did look very professional. So now we know why.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

TV break-ups

Breaking up is hard to do, breaking up with your once favourite TV show can be even harder.

In The Guardian today Lucy Mangan writing about her own break-ups inspired by the website of the US television magazine Entertainment Weekly, which has started a blog on which viewers can break up with their formerly favourite TV shows.

So far fans have broken up with shows such as the 'Gilmore Girls,' 'CSI', 'Smallville', and 'Lost'. The number breaking up with 'Smalleville' is off the scale.

I know a lot about this. I've broken up with a few long term TV loves in my time 'X-Files' '24', 'Alias', 'E.R.' 'The O.C.', and 'Fraser' to name five. There are others that passed away before I had a chance to dump and those that thankfully I never watched all variations of 'CSI', 'Law & Order' and other stuff on Five that involves mean streets and cops. I know the streets are mean.

And then there is 'Lost'. I want to dump Lost, I really do, but I can't quite do it. I'm holding on. I'm not sure why exactly. This is my letter.

Dear Lost,

For a start tell me where the mobile phones are stashed?! There must have been hundreds on that plane, but not one has made it to the beach. Everyone knows you can always get an SMS "help I'm lost" message out where ever you are in the world. But not one and no one ever says "funny about the phones". Guns they got, but a Nokia? Where's a Fin when you need one.

It's a huge mystery. Can you imagine if everyone lost their phones in your office? They would not stop talking about it. Ever. You can tell it bugs me.

But to be honest its not the phones so much. More that on an on you go, but will you ever get anywhere? You know, somewhere? All this travelling without movement, its dizzying.

And what did you do that for? It makes no sense. Michael killing Anna Lucia and Libby like that. Bang, bang and bang. What gives. You'd only just shown us Libby in Hurley's mental hospital. Come on, you can't do that. Why not kill off some of the more useless cast members. Girl with baby or the Koreans.

And the Others? I'm not sure I care. It's like if you're ticking the box that says 'other' you know it doesn't really count. And what happened to the invisibleosaurus?

Please get somewhere of its over. You're are already second fiddle to the best show on TV 'Battlestar Galactica', a show that brings 'The Terminator', together with the darkness of 'Empire Strikes Back' and the politics and fine writing of 'The West Wing'. It's sci-fi for people who don't like sci-fi.

So 'Lost', the clock is running down.

Shirtlifters

Homophobia, it’s 2006 and The Sun is still at it.

Incredible. I thought we had got past it, but clearly not. There it is in 72pt Helvetica in The Sun this morning:

"Three lions on my shirtlifter"

The subs must have been pissing themselves as they wrote that one. Kelvin MacKenzie, the ghost of The Sun's past must have been chuckling away.

This with a woman as editor of the paper.

The story is about England launching a bid to win the Gay World Cup for the first time since 1966.

The UK has a thriving gay culture and the shame is that the rest of the story is written quite straight (excuse the pun) and quotes officials from the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association, as well as gay players without the nudge nudge wink wink asides.

The headline is completely out of keeping with the rest of the story. Shame on The Sun.

Crispy church

People should really lay off giving Charlotte Church a hard time.

The former voice of an angel, latterly the Crazy Chick, and now chat show presenter is clearly no fake.

Her new show isn’t rocket science, but it’s fun and does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a nice new turn for Channel 4 and it’s good to see a woman presenting the Friday night slot, which has been dominated by blokes for a while.

It's an improvement over the dire 'Friday Night Project' and the worse still (is that possible) Johnny Vegas vehicle '18 Stone of Idiot'. Her show pulled in 1.7m for its second outting, which is pretty respectable. Not everyone wants to watch Wossy.

Most of the stories always focus on her size, which is pretty normal. The Daily Mirror today (CHARLOTTE: ME AND MY BUNS..
..AND MY CRISPS AND MY JUNK FOOD MAKE MY BUM GO BIG - AND I DON'T CARE) and The Sun (Church: I'm eating such a Lotte) has with pictures focusing on the size of her arse from 'peach' to 'apple' to 'pear'.

Oh please give the girl a break. Everyone knows women are hugely conscious of their weight (and let’s not lie men too: the scales in Holmes Place are always full) and so endless stories on her size must be annoying.

But despite all the headlines (and a boyfriend who is orange, with shaved legs and is made of hair gel) she wears it well.

She scoffs crisps, which must give her points for living the Walker's lifestyle, and still looks good. At other times, she drinks and smokes (OK, the smoking is wrong... I wish I still could) and is clearly having a ball.

Besides, who wants to see more stick-insect, anaemic girls all desperate to be as skeletal thin as Posh Spice or some such clone?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Standard fall

The Evening Standard is already well on the way to losing the 100,000 copies a day it’s been predicted it will lose.

A report out today in Media Week says that unofficial reports show that on September 5 it lost 50,000 copies or 18% of its circulation two days after thelondonpaper launched.

This will come as a blow to Associated Newspapers. The Standard’s sales had been holding up in August, rallying from its low July figure of 300,993 with a 4.05% rise to 313,181.

September, which already had the burden of a higher 50p cover price, looks set to be disastrous for Associated, following the launch of News International’s evening freesheet and its own freesheet London Lite.

So far, the evidence has been that Londoners prefer thelondonpaper, but only to a certain degree with both papers being picked up by commuters.

A source with access to the Associated circulation department quoted by Media Week said that just 236,000 copies of the Standard were sold at full price on September 5 compared with the previous week when circulation averaged 275,000.

If you've passed an Evening Standard news vendor recently then you will have noticed the big stack of papers and a look of boredom on his face.

Associated claimed to be only 7,000 copies a day down since the Standard's cover price increased. An increase, which seemed almost suicidal in the face of the fresh competition it has.

Who makes their product more expensive when they face free rivals? What kind a strategy is that? The only other thing it has going for it is its regular Pay Your Mortgage Off promotion, which started on 29 August.

I guess we'll know in early October. If the Standard does lose as many as 100,000 copies in the face of the 800,000 freesheets flooding the market (not including Metro) its future will look grim. There just isn't room for three London evening newspapers.

I don't think Rupert Murdoch will pull the plug on thelondonpaper anytime soon, as Robert Maxwell did with his 80s London Daily News, and Associated is hardly likely to admit defeat.

It could pull the London Lite to save the Standard, but my guess is it already knows there is going to be little worth saving.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Note to readers

You have to love The Guardian. Staff might go on strike and just to make sure we know about this it has a report on its website.

Mediaguardian is carrying a report that staff have threatened industrial action after voting to reject a pay and conditions offer from management.

It's a bit like the writer telling everyone that he might strike after a 3% pay increase was rejected.

It must be great to be so liberal handing over the means of production to the workers to allow them to vent to the world about their unhappiness over pay.

More seriously, one of The Guardian's problems is the disparity between the salaries of its newspaper staff and the growing army working online.

The Guardian has apparently promised £500,000 towards levelling the unequal rates of pay.

The paper has a £28,000 minimum wage for journalists, but this does not include online staff.

According to the site, the NUJ chapel has said that if its demands are not met there "would be a ballot for action up to and including strike action".

I love The Guardian as a paper, it's still the best read of all the national newspapers, but it is facing the same problems as many other publishing organisations who have taken on numerous staff as part of their digital expansion and believe somehow that they should be paid a lesser amount.

Good sport

The Sportsman is struggling on and you have to ask why?

This week a consortium of shareholders has been meeting to talk about taking over the paper. There is some irony locked in there somewhere about the Sportsman being aimed at "gamblers".

The paper still has a staff of 100 despite making a few redundancies and has been continuing to print after it went into administration in July. The administrator UHY Hacker Young has been talking confidently, but so far nothing has happened and I can see nothing that is going to save this ill-conceived paper.

Despite The Sportsman failing to meet expectations months after launch investors seem prepared to pour more money into the project. Publishing seems to have this strange effect on people. Long after plugs should have been pulled people insist on throwing more money in.

Millions have already been wasted on the paper, which by May had managed to attract sales of just 16,315. My bet is that since then, and over the summer, sales have fallen to an even lower level, barely above 10,000.

Direct rival, Trinity Mirror's Racing Post may have lost some ground, but it is still shifting 71,146 a day. The Sportsman has no hope of catching it. Its breakeven circulation target is a whopping 40,000 copies.

The picture gets darker still when you look at how many free newspapers have launched. London now has four free daily titles with the arrival of thelondonpaper this week.

With so much freely available, an established rival and acres of sports coverage, who is going to pay £1 for an extra gambling read?

Particularly a read that launched with a focus on online gambling (why?) and has shifted to lead with horseracing. What does that say? Months after launch they realise they had the wrong market.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

ITV upstarts

Here is my idea. To run ITV you need to know something about television. It's crazy, I know.

Yesterday, it was McCann Erickson's Rupert Howell who emerged as a possible candidate to run ITV.

Howell is a very successful and bright ad man. Advertising is obviously important to ITV, but is that enough?

Today's candidate is Mike Clasper, the former BAA chief executive. He's been mentioned before. Again he is not a broadcaster. If you want to find your luggage, he's your man. If you want to know why one of your planes is missing, he is your man.

But again, is he really the guy to revive ITV, which let’s face it is in crisis? It needs a shot in the arm.

I think personally that it needs someone who knows about television, someone with a track record of doing the job. Is Ofcom's Stephen Carter that man?

Look what happened last time they gave the top job to someone who knew little about TV.

They gave it to a man who was an accountant by trade and nicknamed “the upstart caterer” by the industry. OK, there might have been some snobbishness in that, but look at the record of Charles Allen? It's not something anyone is going to celebrate.

His legacy is the Granada/Carlton merger.

ITV now needs someone, a Dawn Airey, a Greg Dyke, who can work miracles on its schedule and turn it around.

What ITV needs is someone, anyone, who knows about programming.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Junior Zoo

Emap wants to make clear that readers of its weekly lads magazine are old enough to consume alcohol. Well, most of them are.

We've long suspected at Brand Republic that readers of Zoo were all in short trousers.

I see them on the Tube gathered, wearing school blazers and pointing at pictures of naked flesh before throwing crisps and cans of Coke at each other.

Even the Advertising Standards Authority was under the impression that at least of a quarter of Zoo's readers had yet to step up to the bar at their local.

But no it is not so. Zoo has pointed to National Readership Survey figures that show that only 17% of its readership is under 18.

However, clearly if Emap ever launched Zoo in the US to partner FHM it would have to rethink a thing or two.

The drinking age is in most US States 21, which I think would rule out almost all of Zoo's readership for buying a watery bottle of Bud.

I would have thought that Emap and rival IPC Media, which publishes Nuts would be looking at US launches, but no word yet.

The US versions of these magazines, while mostly free of alcohol ads and promotions, would likely be hits in the same way that school boys, and of course those who have left the class room behind, have taken to it here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

London papers

With Pete Doherty clearly having a word, a croc hunter and plenty of colour, thelondonpaper landed and ignited a local newspaper war.

I won't bang on about my personal penchant for London news on the front page of a London paper (oh wait, that's simply not true, I will), which resulted in both the newly arrived London Lite and fresh-looking thelondonpaper splashing with the death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

It was a good story and the entertainment story of the day, but still.

That said, it did not detract from the colour-coded arrival of thelondonpaper with its easy-to-navigate, breezy pages of boxed pictures and upbeat stories.

There was much to like and really, more than anything, being a fly on the wall of the London Lite's Associated Newspaper headquarters would have been the thing to be yesterday.

What the thelondonpaper showed was that time and energy and gone into the design and layout, and solutions had been sought to how you deliver something new to Londoner's.

A lot of the elements of design have been seen before (lots from the world of women's magazines), but that is no bad thing, because it was gunning for a market, and audience, and wanted to make them feel at home in its pages.

That job seemed to have been achieved, while London Lite, as one commentator put it, was a regurgitation of previous efforts.

One last thing. Steve Irwin. We were sitting in the office chatting about this story at 8am on Monday morning, having read it online or heard it on the radio. And there it was at 4.30pm, a full working day later, on the front page of thelondonpaper and London Lite. Not a criticism, more an observation of the different speeds of different media. It just reminded me how fast the news cycle moves and how quickly we move on, which presents to anyone in print, London or elsewhere, a difficult challenge.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Time on news

Time magazine has called it a day, as far as news goes. Drawing a line under what increasingly obvious -- the news weekly is pretty much dead when it comes to news.

It is the same conundrum that publishers face everywhere, whether your circulation happens to be four thousand or four million as in the case of the Time, which is part of Time Inc and owned by Time Warner.

Time, like its rival Newsweek, faces the same competition that every other news outlet faces from rolling news TV channels and the internet.

Stories no longer hold – they break by the minute, by the hour and throughout the week, leaving a weekly magazine little to add to what has already been said elsewhere.

Time was always said to reflect the world back as a mirror, but new managing editor Richard Stengel says it needs to be more of a "lamp".

"We’ve traditionally been a mirror, and to me, we more and more have to be a lamp. As a lamp, you’re shining a light on something."

As a lamp, rather than a mirror Time will fill its pages with more essays and news analysis, more about, like The Economist, having a point of view.

This will mean big name writers brought in to liven things up, which can only be good for the reader.

Time already has some good writers with the likes of Joe Klein, but Stengel will bring more in. More essayists and writers.

So far, Stengel has hired Ana Marie Cox, best known not as a journalist but as an author of the blog Wonkette, with others set to follow.

The very idea of a weekly news magazine seems terribly old fashioned, but Time is an excellent magazine and one I always enjoy reading, but not for the news, but because it has great features, columnists and pictures.

As the big news weeklies lead the way in abandoning news to the internet, a trickle down effect is now in play that will undoubtedly hit the magazines that we all have on our desktops in the very new future.