All posts by admin

W3C Endorses SVG

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) today recommended Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 and Mobile SVG profiles be anointed standards.

Vector Graphics (VG) are how Adobe PostScript and Macromedia Flash work, although those two companies each uses a proprietary version of that technology. By contrast, SVG is an XML-based ‘Open Standard’ file format that does basically the same things but also scales images to fit the size and resolution of the user’s display screen.

SVG’s real benefit will be as a universal standard to provide rich graphics to looming Third Wave of Online Journalism: publications published to wireless devices and mobile pocket PCs. The graphics will also be readily usable on wired PCs.

Blog by Phone

Hey, desk-bound bloggers: Perhaps you didn’t believe my prediction last year that there is a rising Third Wave of Online Journalism utilizing wireless technologies? Then point your mouse towards NewBay. This Irish company’s software lets cellular network customers operate weblogs from mobile phones. And in case you think that means blogging just text, note that more than 10 million digital camera-equipped phones were sold in the 3rd Qtr of 2002 and are predicted to outsell digital cameras by 2007. Soon, you’ll no longer be desk-bound.

Some Resources on Privacy Issues

While researching international online privacy issues for a client today, I happened across the Center for Democracy & Technology‘s fairly comprehensive Guide to Online Privacy. I initially came across it while looking for any updates to the U.S. Commerce Department’s ‘Safe Harbor’ consumer privacy agreement with the European Union. The CDT site had no such updates but contains a wealth of hyperlinks to information about the ‘Safe Harbor’ treaty, about P3P, wireless device location privacy, and other online privacy issues.

Many of my conservative friends in the publishing industry might carp at the CDT’s liberal tone, but I believe that online businesses have to be actively pro-privacy to profit. For example, eMarketer today reports that concerns about online privacy was the reason why 82% of US consumers online refused to give information to a Web site

The 'Wireless PDA' Strategy

There is a posting on the Online-News listserv today that asks this question about Sybase’s acquition of AvantGo:

Do you foresee this changing your wireless/PDA strategy? (Is that question moot?)

I think it’s sad to see American publishers mistake PDAs as having anything at all to do with wireless. Yes, I myself carry a MDA (Mobile Digital Assistant, a merged PDA and cell phone), but suchwireless devices have almost nothing to do with AvantGo’s type of service. How many truly wireless subscribers does AvantGo have? Hardly any. AvantGo users are chained to their desktop PCs; they must insert their PDAs into a cradle attached to a PC in order to use AvantGo. Nothing wireless there.

An example of real wireless is Short Messaging Services (SMS), delivery of regular Web pages to truly mobile wireless devices, and even the old Wireless Applications Protocol (WAP). For example, one of my clients, Ireland.com, sends one million SMS news messages per month (and earns gross annual revenues of nearly half a million Euros doing this). That’s a wireless strategy. But then, that’s outside of North America, where we’re two years behind everyone else in recognizing what true wireless is and can do.

Slow Blog due to EBNA demise?

This blog has lately been quiet because Digital Deliverance is planning to donate the blog to the organization that has been known as the EBook Newsstand Association. That organization, which is dedicate to finding ways for periodical publishers to publish on handheld portable devices, had been changing its name to the Multi-Platform Publishers Association,but may instead disband. We’ll soon know which.

Sledgehammer Superstitials Hit Online Users

The behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow once noted, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” Unicast ? a New York online advertising technology firm whose name infers anything but interactivity ? today unveiled what might be the banner ad version of the sledgehammer.

Their Superstitial banner is a 300-kilobyte ad that rises to cover approximately two-thirds (550 x 480 pixels) of the computer screen with up to 20 seconds of ‘rich media’ advertising. Despite the Interactive Advertising Bureau‘s recommended 100-kilobyte maximum size for interstitial and pop-up ads, Universal Pictures and ADiamondisForever.com have agreed to advertise with Superstitials, DoubleClick has announced its support of Superstitials, and among the networks and publications that have announced they will Superstitials are About.com, Business.com, BusinessWeek Online, ESPN.com, Excite, FastCompany.com, Fodors.com, Inc.com, Kiplinger.com, Maxim.com Sportsline.com, Office.com, PCWorld.com, Reel.com, Terra Lycos, uBid.com, Weather.com, and Zagat.com.

Does anyone other than me remember when the majority of what a person saw a computer screen was the Web content that he’d gone to see?

What are the New Media?

In 1998, we formulated a Philosophy of New Media. This past week, we took time out from this Web log (and other things) to reformat its pages.

Not only does this Philosophy point out the misnomers and misperceptions that currently plague most news publishers and broadcasters who are attempting to operate online, but other events also keep proving the Philosophy true. It is as apt today as it was four years ago, and we’re proud of that.

Salon's Spins Paid Content

CNET’s News.com recently reported that webzine Salon.com has now generated 35,000 paying subscribers for its Salon Premium services. Indeed, Salon’s press release announcing that level of paying subscribership received favorable play in trade press for online publishing.

That’s too bad, because some of those journalists have fogotten that context, not content, is ‘king’ in journalism. Dotcom Scoop‘s Deputy Editor Robert Loch didn’t forget that basic journalism lesson. He debunks Salon’s press release and News.com’s fawning coverage of it. “Given the fantastic chance to receive Salon Premium content for as little as $2.50 per month, a staggering 3,770,000 of Salon’s reported 3.8 million readership have decided not to bother.” Loch also notes that a nearly a third of the income from this “hopeless” one-eighth of a percent response rate will be
consumed by Salon Founder David Talbot’s $300K annual salary, nonetheless paying for the rest of his staff or Salon‘s more than $70 million debt.

Woe is the Newspaper Industry

Perhaps no story portrays the newspaper industry’s current woes as well as this:

On Monday, Kmart Corporation was named the Best Overall in the Newspaper Association of America’s third annual Retailer of the Year awards competition. The following day, Kmart filed for bankruptcy, the largest such filing ever made by a retailer.

The NAA Retailer of the Year awards were established to acknowledge those retailers that execute highly effective partnerships with newspapers in their markets. Kmart was nominated by the San Diego Union-Tribune and Gannett Co., for newspaper initiatives that resulted in a 24 percent increase in daily sales at Kmart stores and a 44 percent hike for Sunday editions.

Kmart, the third-largest discount retailer in the U.S., continues to operate all 2,114 of its stores, but analysts say that several hundred stores will be closed after a corporate review is completed at the end of April, which could mean layoffs for thousands of the company’s 240,000 workers. There is no estimate yet of how much newspaper advertising revenues could be lost.

Have Online Ad Networks 'Screwed the Pooch'

According to Tom Wolfe‘s book, The Right Stuffto screw the pooch was a slang phrase that test pilots in the California desert used during the 1950s to describe a pilot who died in the wreckage of his plane.

News last week that DoubleClick is discontinuing its Intelligent Targeting product makes us wonder if DoubleClick and similar online advertising networks have themselves driven crashed the promise of online advertising into the ground.

The dual promise of online advertising was that the consumer would see ads only for things that he wants and that the marketer would be able to buy ads seen only by consumers who want his product. That benefits both consumers and marketers.

However, the key was to know what what each consumer wants. To gain that knowledge, DoubleClick and other online ad networks surveiled online consumers, generally without their knowledge, tracking where they Web surfed and for what. DoubleClick’s Intelligent Targeting product then allowed marketers to sell focused ads based upon Web surfing consumers’ own individual ‘profiles’ — those ‘profiles’ based upon DoubleClick’s surveillance.

The trouble is that DoubleClick and most other online ad networks never learned that:

    (1) Most online surveillance ‘profiles’ are faulty because they track not real people but user of their computers. If I use my personal computer to visit four Web sites, then there is fair probability that I’m interested in those Web sites’ and profiling me on that basis might be true. But if instead my girlfriend, my dog, and myself each were to use my personal computer to visit four Web sites, a profile based upon surveilling which sites were visited would probably yield a profile of a woman who loves Formula One racing and eats dog food.

    (2) In New Media, control lies in a different position than in Mass Media. The Internet has shifed control of its media more into the hands of the consumers and a bit furher out of the hands of publishers or marketers. So, secretly (because that’s how most Web ‘cookies’ work) surveilling online consumers tends to aggravate consumers who discover it. Hence, the consumer privacy uproar about such online surveillance. Consumers also fear that this ‘profile’ information about is being sold and re-used by marketers in ways they no knowledge about or control over.

What was instead needed to fulfill the promise of online advertising was not secret online surveillance of online consumers to create ‘profiles’ about them, but a mutual safe and secure mechanism for consumers to inform the intermediator and marketer about their needs & wants. Its legislative and technological guarantees would provide consumers with assurances that it was safe to disclose their needs & desires to marketers, who would use that information correctly and according to permissions set by the consumers themselves.

However, DoubleClick and similar companies took a spy flight over consumers’ borders and got themselves shot down. They screwed the pooch.

Handheld 'Communicators'

We yesterday mentioned the Handspring Treo as an example of a handheld ‘converged device’ that can handle multiple forms of content and communications. Today’s New York Times Technology section reviews (free registration required to read the review) both the Treo and the Motorola V200, another such device. Perhaps borrowing the term for similar futuristic devices in the Star Trek TV show and movies, reviewer David Pogue calls such devices communicators. Says Pogue, “…the Treo is miles ahead of rival Palm phones and light years ahead of Microsoft’s Pocket PC devices. It’s a tiny, trusty, addictive little gadget, fun to hold, use, and show off — word that haven’t sprung to mind since the original Pilot, invented by the same team.

Postrel on Products

We’ve long been a fan of REASON Magazine Editor Virginia Postrel, who also is one of four experts who takes turns writing the Economic Scene column in The New York Times Business Section. Here are two reasons why we like her:

In today’s Economic Scene column, she writes about how how publishers don’t think cutting the price of books will sell more books, “People who love their products tend to underestimate how many tepid or wavering customers there are at a given price. They lose sales by thinking everybody will be as enthusiastic about the product as they are themselves and the potential customer will be therefore oblivious to a high price.”

We think that also able describe e-book manufacturers and book publishers, both of whom unsuccessfully sold devices and e-books at high price.

We also think that a speech Postrel gave in 1999 inadvertently but ably describes what newspaper and magazines publishers fear about the Internet:

“It is the argument that markets are disruptive and chaotic, that they make the future unpredictable, and that they serve too many diverse values rather than ‘one best way.’ The most important challenge to markets today is not the ideology of socialism but the ideology of stasis, the notion that the good society is one of stability, predictability, and control. The role of the state, in this view, therefore, is not so much to reallocate wealth as it is to curb, direct, or end unpredictable market evolution.”

Does NY Times Web Site Blur Editorial-Advertising Lines?

“To borrow from the tagline of the new blockbuster film Lord of the Rings, it may be the one Web page that binds them all. But did it united them in darkness?

That’s is how CBS MarketWatch leads a story claiming that The New York Times Web site’s ‘sponsored content’ for that film is the latest example of “how the modern world of Internet journalism is colliding with the age-old struggle of keeping news and advertising apart.”

Earlier this year at the Content Summit in Zurich, we watched New York Times Digital General Manager Scott Meyer explain his company’s ‘sponsored content’ concept: The advertiser gets to create a promotional Web page pick that features the advertiser’s choice of previously published Times articles about whatever is being promoted.

Because the articles were written by the newspaper’s critics and staff and were objective, the Times claims use of those articles by the advertiser doesn’t blur the line between editorial and advertising content.

But we maintain that New York Times Digital has clearly blurred that line because:

  • The advertiser chooses which Times stories will be published on the Web page — it is unlikely that negative stories about will be published.
  • From the consumer’s perspective, the Web page clearly looks like a Times editorial news page, not an advertiser’s page.
  • Letting an advertiser pick which stories get published on a page would clearly violate the Times print edition’s ethical practices. The Web might be a new medium, but we believe that ethics transcent media.
  • If the Times is to maintain itself as the paragon of American (and perhaps all English-language) journalism, it must be held to a paragon’s journalistic ethics standards. That’s why we’ve criticized the frequent ethical lapses by its Web subsidiary. And we assert that the root cause of these lapses was New York Times Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. installing former advertising executive Martin Nisenholtz — an ad executive without any journalistic experience who is in change of a paragon journalistic Web site.

    But Should Harvard Alumni Even Have AOL Accounts?

    Dozens of applicants to Harvard University didn’t hear ‘You’ve got mail!’ when American Online rejected the university’s e-mails about their acceptance as Harvard students. According to Boston.com, AOL’s e-mail filtering system mistook Harvard’s mass e-mailing as a spam attack and blocked those messages. (We wonder if AOL also blocks the Harvard Law School Alumni Association’s fund-raising e-mails to its alumni, AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman Ken Novack and Executive Vice President & General Counsel Paul Cappuccio?)

    E-Mail the Major Carrier of Computer Viruses

    According to a story in The South China Morning Post , Computer Associates and Kaspersky Labs repor that that 90% of computer viruses were transmitted via e-mails. According to MessageLabs, an average of one message in every 300 contains a virus, compared to one in every 700 one year ago. It expects that one in every 10 will contain a virus by 2008.