Category Archives: Media Globalization

Reuters Retreats Two Years on NewsML

This past weekend, most of the stories about the online news industry focused on Associated Press President & CEO Tom Curley‘s keynote speech at the annual conference of the Online News Association. Though it was good to hear that the AP has finally realized that there’s a seismic environmental change underway in media, Curley’s speech was about AP intentions, not AP accomplishments. The American wire service has accomplished little with new media during the past ten years.

A story that was under-reported weekend was Reuters‘ postponed deployment of NewsML. The British wire service (disclaimer: where I worked during most of 1989 to 1993) is approximately half a decade ahead of the AP in new media. Reuters began serving online news site in 1994, years before AP did. Reuters has migrated its worldwide communications network from its proprietary satellites and cables system onto the Internet. And Reuters has been instrumental in developing the worldwide news communications standard known as NewsML, an Open Standard version of XML for news organizations.

Agence France Press> (AFP), the Italian news agency ANSA, the Belgian news agency Belga, the Swiss news agency SDA/ATS, United Press International (UPI), the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, The Irish Times of Dublin, The Wall Street Journal Online, PR Newswire, and Business Wire have also been instrumental in developing NewsML

Unfortunately, Reuters has announced that it’s postponing deployment of its own NewsML front-end system, called News2Web, by two years, until 2006. As The Guardian reported on Friday

    David Schlesinger, global managing editor of Reuters’ news operation, told staff in an email that the News2Web project would be delayed. He said progress had been made on the web-based product, but acknowledged that the group’s news staff were aware of technical hitches with the project. Staff trials of the new product, designed to make the entire editorial process web-based, are understood to have been negative.

    “As many in editorial know too well, we have had significantly less success getting the front end of the system right; we don’t yet have the new desktop in a state ready to roll out to journalists,” said Mr Schlesinger.

    News2Web was targeted for launch at the end of this year and was seen as a flag bearer for Reuters’ strategy of putting its entire business online.

    A Reuters spokeswoman said delays in the development of News2Web meant it would not be available in the group’s main product for City professionals, 3000 Xtra. While Reuters is much more than a news service, its news feed is still an important component of the trading and financial information screens it sells to banks and brokerages.

    “It makes no sense to roll it out in the newsroom until it’s in the main product,” said the spokeswoman.

    She would not disclose the cost of the News2Web programme but some Reuters staff believe the project is significantly over budget. There are fears among news staff that deeper job cuts will be made before Christmas to ensure that Fast Forward stays on track and cost savings targets are not affected by the budget overrun of News2Web.

Though the AP’s Curley talked about “atomized” news and “My Personalized News”, a wire service must output such content in a structured XML protocol, namely NewsML. Despite this delay, Reuters is far ahead of the AP in actually implementing that.

BBC News Popup Translations to Learners of Welsh

You don’t you read Welsh? If not, how will you know the Diweddaraf Newyddion o’r Cymru (Latest News from Wales)? It’s hard to use y we (the Web) if you don’t understand the language.

The BBC understands, so its New Media Department in Wales has created Vocab, an open source website tool that offers English-language popup translations of Welsh words. Try it yourself on the BBC’s Welsh-language news page. I may not let you fluently read Welsh (for that, you’ll need the BBC’s Learn Welsh pages), but at least you won’t be uninformed while strolling through Cardiff.

BBC New Media there is considering development of a Welsh-Spanish popup translation version to help the Welsh community resident in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

Journalist Robert Andrews’ blog provides more details about Vocab.

Internet Not a "Place of Public Accomodation"

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a October 2002 lower court ruling that the World Wide Web is not a ‘place of public accommodation’ under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. At least for now, this means that online news publishers in America aren’t legally required to provide full Web site access for the disabled.

The appealed case arose when Robert Gumson, a blind man who uses software that converts online text into synthesized speech couldn’t purchase Southwest Airlines tickets online because unlabeled graphics, inadequately labeled data tables, and purely graphical navigation links made that airline’s Web site all but impossible for visually-impaired people to use. Gumson is one of 1.5 million Americans with vision impairments who use the Internet. He and an advocacy group for disabled people sued Southwest, which meanwhile redesigned its site for better ADA access.

In 2002, a federal court in Florida ruled for the airline, finding that the ADA applies only to “physical, concrete places of public accommodation.” But Gumson and the advocacy group appealed, now claiming that his difficulties accessing Southwest’s site prevented him from using the airline’s physical flights themselves.

Continue reading Internet Not a "Place of Public Accomodation"

British Online Usage 1999-2003 Increased 8X

Between 1999 and 2003, the time Britons spent online increased by eightfold, according to a report today in netimperative. Text messaging has increased fifteen-fold. People in the UK now spend more money on mobile phones than fixed-line telephony.

By contrast, the growth of traditional media has been paltry. UK television viewing increased by only 2 percent and radio listening by 6 percent

The report details how there are now almost 50,000 new broadband subscribers every week (DSL and cable), up from around 40,000 additions a week in late 2003. The total number of UK broadband subscribers is on par with the number in France and Germany. More than one-third of Internet households now have a broadband connection.

More than 85 percent of UK households now own at least one mobile phone. more than 20 percent of consumers now regard their mobile phone as their main device for making and receiving calls.

More Evidence That Europeans Lead

My American compatriots still won’t believe me when I say that the best online publications are European. I’ve been telling them that for years, but their their national pride makes them think that whatever was invented in America is still made there. (Oh, yeah? Just try finding an American manufacturer of television sets, radio sets, disc drives, or cameras.)

The superiority of European online publications is nothing new to me. Back in November 2000, the French newspaper Lib&#233ration quoted me
saying that the cutting edge in online publishing was no longer in America but in Europe. [The English translation of my answer to Lib&#233ration‘s third question is, “Alas! the majority of the good ideas do not come from France. Partly because the French adopted the Internet on late. On the other hand, the media in Scandinavia launched sites very early. The Irish and the Spaniards integrated the video and audio and it on their sites whereas the Americans still do not do it, or almost not. On Dagbladet of Stockholm you can read the text of an article with audio and video segment turned in by the reporters on the ground. I believe that Europeans learned quickly that it was necessary to break news on their sites. The Spaniards are remarkable: I think that El Pais and El Mundo are among the best online newspapers in the world.”]

And as recently as last month, UK.Journalism.com paraphrased me saying that Europe’s online news publications are more advanced than those in the US, particularly in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, and Spanish and UK sites are leading the way in charging for web newspapers.

But today there’s more background to back up my apatriotic opinion.

A survey by International Business Machines and the intelligence unit of British magazine The Economist says that the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom have pushed the U.S. out of the top five ranking of most Web-savvy nation, Reuters reports. Denmark was number one, followed by the U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Finland. “Scandinavia is remarkable for the way in which citizens have incorporated Internet technology into their daily lives, completely altering how they work, shop, and communicate with officials,” the report said.

The U.S. dropped to sixth place. Despite the fast growth in use of broadband connections in America, the U.S. was still falling behind other nations’ population with broadband connections, the report said. “It is not a case of decline, but rather of stagnation or slow development compared with more aggressive e-leaders,” the report said.

During the 1990s, Europeans visited America to learn about the state-of-the-art about the wired Internet. But Americans nowadays visit Europe to learn that, plus learn about the state-of-the-art in wireless technologies. According to dictionary.com, the word for the American condiment ketchup can also be spelled catchup. Pour it on!

Chinese Internet Brings Some Justice

On the front page of The New York Times (registration site) today, there is an excellent report about how average people in China are beginning to use the Internet as a means to demand — and sometimes get — justice from their legal system. The Peoples Republic of China nowadays has the world’s second largest population of online users (the US has the largest).

Needs Versus Technology

     Tech for tech’s sake
      does not a market make.

The world can have as many waves of new technologies as serendipty, venture capital, or the right combination of both can muster. But the technologies that are accepted by, and make a difference in, society are those that satisfy needs. Not the technies’ needs, but the needs of the average (fair to middling) educated persons’.

Moreover, indigenous culture can play a major role in which new technologies actually get used. Several articles that read today reminded us of all this:

The ROAR consortium (The Guardian and Observer, Emap Advertising, Channel 4, and OMD UK) last month released some research on over a thousand 15-29 year-old Britons. Although this research primarily was about whether or not young Britons will purchase 3rd Generatoin mobile phones (the research’s answer: not initially), there were a few other interesting conclusions:

    “Today’s generation is demanding of technology and hard to impress. In their formative years, radical steps forward

Effects of the EU 'Ban on Spam' Directive?

At the beginning of this month, the European Union’s ‘ban on spam’ directive (PDF format) took effect:

  • ‘Cookies’ and other invisible tracking devices that can collect information on Internet users may be utilised only if the user is given clear information about the purpose of any such invisible activity and is offered the right to refuse it.
  • Location data generated by mobile phones can only be further used or passed on by network operators with explicit user consent. The only exceptions are the transmission of location data to emergency services, and transmission of data to law enforcement authorities, subject to strict conditions.
  • E-mail marketing is only allowed with prior consent (‘opt-in’). Disguised identities and invalid return addresses are also outlawed. The new regime also covers SMS messages and other electronic messages sent to any mobile and fixed terminal.

    Enforcement of the Directive is left to the individual EU countries. Several are running behind schedule with the new regime’s implementation. Only Austria, Denmark, Italy and Sweden had brought their own national laws in line with the new directive prior to its 1 November deadline.

    If you’re a publisher in an EU country, please tell us if the directive if effecting you. We’ll keep your identity confidential and will share with you any research findings.

  • The Difference Between IAB and AOP in UK

    Two weeks ago, we noted PaidContent.org’s report that UK Internet Advertising Bureau Chairman Richard Eyre‘s speech to the UK Association of Online Publishers Association’s annual awards banquet was practically a cry for merger between the IAB and the AOP.

    Mike Butcher, deputy editor of MediaWeek Online, though otherwise and has written a story about the U.K. turf battle between those two associations. He quotes AOP Chairman Bill Murray, “Advertising is an important element in the publishing mix and we are keen to work closely with the IAB in this area, but it is not the only one… Richard Eyre

    iCAN Through the BBC

    Newspapers that provide blogs to a few readers are merely creating a few amateur guest columnists. That’s not ‘participatory journalism’. What is will be unveiled next Monday by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Called iCAN, the BBC Interactive‘s participatory journalism program lets any resident of a UK community raise issues, promote grassroot campaigns, find people with the same public concerns, and change things within their community or the nation. iCAN provides the hosting, advice, and the online tools and resource, and consists of two main components: self-service public forums that help people raise concerns and find others who share those concerns, and what the BBCi calls a ‘democracy database’ designed to provide the public with a wealth of information on grassroots campaigns and legislative processes.

    For example, if a city council plans to close a local school, iCAN can help concerned citizens find each other, facilitate organization of anti-closing public meetings and protests, and learn how citizens of other cities have successfully stopped schools from closing. BBCi architected iCAN after an ethnographic study of real-world grassroots political campaigns. iCAN benefits the BBC by giving it fertile grounds for story leads; six BBC reporters, assigned to different regions of the UK, will watch iCAN for potential stories.

    Matt Jones, one of iCAN’s lead developers (who is now leaving BBCi to join Nokia in Helskinki) provides some background theory.

    Newsstand.com Offer New Scientist

    New Scientist.jpg
    Newsstand.com has begun distributing a digital edition of New Scientist magazines. That’s a bit of a coup for two reasons.

    “This is a great leap forward for New Scientist. It will bring the magazine to a whole new audience, many of whom wouldn’t have access to the print copy,” said Natasha Ward, publisher of New Scientist. “I think it’s quite fitting for the title that it should be one of the first in the U.K. to publish using this technology.”

    As she mentions, the first reason why it’s a coup is that New Scientist is the first UK magazine digital edition that Newsstand.com has begun to distribute. The second reason is simply that New Scientist is a distinguished magazines. Established in 1956, owned by Reed Business Information, and published in print editions weekly to 650,000 readers worldwide, New Scientist is one of the world’s leading magazines about science.

    Its digital edition version from Newsstand.com will cost USD51 for an annual subscription or USD4.95 afor a single copy. It’s odd that Newsstand.com isn’t yet accepting funds in Pounds Sterling for digital editions of British publications.

    The 'Tipping Point' in the UK

    PaidContent.org features a transcript of the speech that Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC New Media & Technology, gave on Monday to the Royal Television Society:

      “What we are witnessing at the moment in the UK is, I believe, a tipping point. As more people have digital TV in the UK than don’t, and as more homes are already connected to the Net than are not, so the rate of take-up may actually increase, aided by a number of social and technological forces coming together. This critical phase for digital TV will take us through to analog switch off which the government is aiming for in around seven year’s time. The successful media companies in this context will be those that realize the landscape has changed and that viewers want to consume their media in fundamentally different ways to the traditional image of a family, gathered around the TV box, watching with rapt attention.”

    Highfield belives that:

      At the simplest level — audiences will want to organize and re-order content the way they want it. They’ll add comments to our programmes,programmes, vote on them and generally mess about with them. But at another level, audiences will want to create these streams of video themselves from scratch, with or without our help. At this end of the spectrum, the traditional “monologue broadcaster” to “grateful viewer” relationship will break down, and traditional advertising and subscription models will no longer be viable. Digital TV has, until this point, been led by the commercial sector, but the next phase will see public sector services playing a far greater role. As the creative R&D for the nation, the BBC has a distinctive role to play in creating the content, services and tools which audiences want for this future TV world and which the market at the moment cannot risk providing.

    The Independent Review of BBC Online's Market Impact

    Anyone who is following the controversy over whether or not the BBC should be allowed to compete online with commercial UK news organizations should find useful the UK government’s Department of Culture, Media, and Sport web page that offers downloadable (PDF format) copies of the independent review of BBC Online’s Market Impact Assessment, provided by KMPG consulting to the BCC.

    Internet Users by Nation

    2003 Internet Users by Nation.gif
    eMarketer, in a story about RedSheriff’s report about the top Australian Web sites by traffic, presents this interesting bar chart displaying both the sheer numbers of consumers online in major countries plus the percentage those users represent of their national population. [One of the reasons we subscribe to eMarketer’s daily newsletter is that company’s excellent charts.]

    RedSheriff’s “report on Internet usage in Australia says that the majority of Internet users (84%) there have been using the Internet for more than two years, with almost half having used the Internet for over 5 years. Aussies are logging on more often and for longer, with the mean number of hours per week increasing from 5.6 to 6.5 in 2003 and those with a broadband connection using the Internet for a still greater length of time, on average 9.3 hours per week.

    The average Australian receives 17 e-mails daily (a 48% increase from last year) but and 7 percent of online Australians receive more than 60 e-mails daily. An estimated 24 percent of all e-mails received in Australia are spams. Despite the large differences in the numbers of emails received, there is not such a great differentiation in the proportion of emails read: an average 64% of emails (including spams) received by Australians are read.

    There was but one publishing or broadcasting company among the ten most trafficked Australian Web sites, according to RedSheriff. It’s SMH.com.au, the Sydney Morning Herald.