Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

Digital Newspapers

Posted by Andrew at 2:14 AM on July 30, 2010

PDA-247 logoFollowing on from some of early articles this week on news and newspapers, Shaun at PDA-247 has written a blog post Digital Newspapers: Stuck at Page One? which covers his experience of The Times Online on the iPad.

In the post, he thinks that he’s getting value for money for his £2 a week as the content and presentation are good.  Although some people are still reluctant to pay for news content, he’s done the maths and even with the (assumed) 90% reduction in subscribers, the website will still pull in £1 million every year.  Not huge money, but it’s early days.

Shaun says that people are used to getting something physical for their money.  People like the physicality of books and DVDs though I think it’s as much about having the item to show off your good taste rather than the item itself.   Anyway, the physical nature of books and DVDs hardly counts when it comes to newspapers as most people throw them away once the paper is read.

He closes by suggesting that newspaper reading is dwindling because of competing pressure on our free time.  This is the era of satellite TV, the internet, the social network and the poor old newspaper has fallen by the wayside.

All good points and worth giving the orginal article a quick read.

The Changing Face of News and Journalism

Posted by Andrew at 6:48 AM on July 26, 2010

Andrew Marr, formerly the BBC’s Political Editor, has written a series of articles on the changing face of news and journalism in an era of technological change.

In the first, End of the News Romantics, he comments how he always thought he’d be a true newspaper and newscast kind of guy but in fact he’s embracing the new technology of tablets and phones.  He says, “A few years ago, I was shaking my head and saying I thought I’d had the best of times for journalism, and wouldn’t want my children to join the trade. No longer. I’d like to be 20 and starting out again right now.

In the second, A New Journalism on the Horizon, he talks in a little bit more detail about the media revolution, where he discusses the future of journalism in the age of new media.  He starts out from the recent revelations that (a) the estimated readership of the The Times Online has dropped by 90% since the introduction of the paywall and (b) e-books are outstripping hardbacks on Amazon, and how these facts seem to be contra-indications.

He puts forwards two points, the first being that the notion of not paying for news seems to be somewhat strange.  People pay for DVDs, magazines, TV channels, mobile apps, e-books, so why not news?  Although he’d be happy to pay, he wants to be able to pick and choose – politics but not fashion, business but not crime – so he feels the proposition will need to be refined.

The second point is that there will undoubtedly be consolidation in the market for general news or the news of the day.  But he believes that underneath this will be specialist news organisations that deal in particular sectors of the market, such as automotive, enviromental, foreign countries.  This will be where the real knowledge and understanding will be.

As ever, it’s hard to gaze into the crystal ball and predict the future.  From my previous posts, you’ll know that I think we have to start paying for news if we want quality journalism to continue.  As to the second point, of  specialised news organisations, I think he’s right.  Imagine CNN or the BBC no longer having a technology correspondent and outsourcing that to Engadget or Gizmodo.  Or business news provided by the Economist. It’s not a hard stretch of the imagination to see that coming.

What do you think?  Will the news organisations of today simply become aggregators?

Broadband Basic Right In Finland

Posted by Andrew at 8:25 AM on July 1, 2010

From the beginning of July, a 1 Mbit/s Internet connection will become a universal service in Finland.  Simply, this means that anyone who wants an Internet connection must be provided with one at a reasonable price by one of the 26 telecom operators.

This makes Finland the first country in the world to make Internet access a basic right and it’s interesting to compare this with the UK and France which have both threatened to cut-off the connections of persistent copyright infringers.

From a technical perspective, it’s not a big deal.  There’s already about 96% connection penetration in the country already and this means that there are only about 4000 properties that would need to be connected to achieve full penetration.

Personally, I think this is great step forwards.  1 Mbit/s isn’t super fast but it’s adequate and over time technology and commercial pressure will up the data rate.  However, the key point is that it’s a universal service or basic right enshrined in law, which means that it can’t easily be taken away.

There’s additional coverage over at the BBC.

The Dark Side of eReaders

Posted by susabelle at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2010

Part of my daily job is to be sure that the disabled students on my campus have access to the same resources that any student has access to, regardless of their disability.  Most of us think “big” when we think about disabled people; those with mobility issues, blindness, or deafness.  In reality, there’s a whole host of disabilities, some visible, and some not so visible.  My students range from debilitating disabilities to those that are virtually invisible, but all students receive the same considerations for their disabilities, and are awarded the accommodations they need to bring them on level with non-disabled students.

In my little microcosm, this often involves creating and providing text in an alternative format.  It might be in audio, or tagged xml files (more commonly known as DAISY files), or simple text files that can be manipulated in multiple ways by the user.  Out of hundreds of disabled students I serve on a regular basis, there are dozens of solutions we may use for various disabilities.

You would think eReaders might be a really good solution to some of our accommodation needs.  And you would be wrong.  One of the most inaccessible devices on the planet is the much-hailed and much-loved eBook reader.  Even with some features like enlargement of text and the ability to have the book read in audio, this is not provided in enough depth nor breadth to offer true accessibility.  As one example, while some books on the Kindle can be played using the text-to-speech function, the menus are not in an audible format, so how is a visually impaired person supposed to even get to the book in the first place?  And this is just one issue, and does not cover all of the potential problems with eReaders when it comes to disabled readers.

And to make matters worse, some colleges and universities have bought into the hype and are forcing eBooks onto their student populations, under the assumption that it will save money for students (this is debatable all on its own) and that students will like it better because it’s electronic (this has also been debunked, for the most part).  But in their rush to embrace the new, they didn’t take a good, hard look at what was at stake.

Now the Department of Justice is doing it for them. In a statement released yesterday jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education, with an endorsement from the Office of Civil Rights, schools are cautioned against recommending, forcing, or prescribing eBook readers for their students.  “It is unacceptable for universities to use emerging technology without insisting that this technology be accessible to all students,” the statement said in part.

Most users of eReaders don’t care that their eReaders are accessible.  But up to 10% of the market share may belong to readers who need such features available to them.  In the world of eReaders, which are now selling like hotcakes, that market share could be significant.

As an educator, I am glad to see the DOJ and DOE taking a stance on this issue, which up until this point was only being addressed in the civil courts.  That’s a huge waste of money, when a simple statement from these two agencies could have put a stop to it long ago.  Disabled students on my campus are happy to know that they will not be forced, anytime soon, to jump on the eReader bandwagon.  Someday, those readers may reach accessibility levels that are appropriate, but until then, my students won’t be forced onto the devices, and that’s good news all around.

Media Distribution via Boxee and Roku!

Posted by geeknews at 9:17 AM on April 8, 2010

Geek News Central Podcast via the Tech Podcast Network is now available on Boxee through a custom application, and in the coming weeks through the Roku Set Top Box. Which is very exciting, but it gets much better than that.

My Team at RawVoice is focusing this year on distribution and making it easier for audience members like mine to consume content on devices that you have hooked up to your television.

We all love our mobile devices and like to take the content with us, but sometimes it is nice to have it available via your television on the Xbox, Wii, PS3, Popbox, Nuu, Vudu etc..

With the release of the App on the Boxee and the pending release of the Blubrry Channel on the Roku this is the first step in building out new distribution channels for all of the shows that work with RawVoice.

To see more about our vision and how we will be able to build custom channels for our content creators, check out the press release we put out today.

Make sure you order a Roku or try Boxee today!

Albert Gonzalez Gets 20 Years for Hacking, and Then Some

Posted by susabelle at 7:21 AM on March 26, 2010

Just an update from my story of a few days ago. Hacker Albert Gonzalez got a sentence of 20 years on the first guilty plea, entered in Massachusetts, to unauthorized computer access. Two more cases (and guilty please) in New York and New Jersey will be finalized next week in Boston, when additional sentences will be pronounced.

It’s probably not enough, but it sends a really strong message, that’s for sure. Keep your hands of what isn’t yours.

Paying for Online News

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2009

Newspaper boy

Are you willing to pay for the news. That is what Rupert Murdoch maybe betting on. Rupert Murdoch is the owner of a media empire which includes the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones. Lately he has been talking about removing his news empire from Google Search and putting them behind a pay wall

Clearly for this to work it would depend on if people are willing to pay for their news. I found an article on Technologizer that said that 45% of people surveyed were willing to pay for news. When I saw this article red flags immediately went up in my head, based on what I had previously heard and read. I wanted to find out more about this survey. The original article came from the New York Times, upon reading the Times’ article I found that the survey was done by the Boston Consulting Group.

I went to their Web site, where there was a fuller explanation of the survey. People are willing to pay for the news, but only under narrow and specific circumstances. This is the key paragraph that the New York Times and Tech chose to ignore.

“• Unique, such as local news (67 percent overall are interested; 72 percent of U.S. respondents) or specialized coverage (63 percent overall are interested; 73 percent of U.S. respondents)

• Timely, such as a continual news alert service (54 percent overall are interested; 61 percent of U.S. respondents)

• Conveniently accessible on a device of choice.”

Consumer, however are not willing to pay for news that is freely available all over the Internet. The consumers that are most willing to pay for their news are those that are already paying for newspaper. I suspect that this is an older and increasingly smaller audience. Even if consumer are willing to pay for their subscription, they are not willing to pay enough to make up for the lost of advertisement that newspapers have been dealing with. A pay wall might slow the decline but it will not stop it. The only way that newspapers can survive is to adapt to the new world, the old model is no longer viable and to try to save it is doom to fail

NBC Now Belongs to Service Provider Comcast

Posted by susabelle at 4:45 AM on November 16, 2009

nbc-logoToday, Comcast is expected to close the deal on a 51% stake in NBC Universal. Comcast is the cable service provider in 25% of the homes in the United States. For NBC, the oldest broadcaster of record, this is the end of an era. Comcast, known primarily as a provider of the pipeline, will now be holder of one of the largest baskets of broadcast and cable channels ever to exist. NBC Universal includes such favorites as SciFi, Bravo, Oxygen, and USA, as well as the entire line of MSNBC/CNBC channels. NBC Universal also owns the Weather Channel and NBC Broadcast Television programming.

Until now, Comcast owned the Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television. So grabbing onto the NBC Universal package slingshots them into a whole new category. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. NBC broadcast television has been falling in the ratings for several years, and is now considered 4th by popularity. Their cable offerings, however, fare much better, with much higher ratings. How many of us watch the Weather Channel every day (even if online)? This is big beans for Comcast.

What concerns me, to some extent, is when the pipe providers also become the content providers. In my mind, this is a potential conflict of interest, and may not always play out positively for the end user/watcher. Only time will tell on this one.

Why Social Media is Not a Replacement for News

Posted by susabelle at 9:13 AM on November 8, 2009

newsGreat article over on TechCrunch today (by Paul Carr) about how social networking-based reporting may mean well, but actually causes more harm than good. In this case, the incident was the shootings at Fort Hood on Thursday, and the social networking site was Twitter. The military and its official spokespeople were informing the press (and by definition, the public) with the information they could reliably release, while inside the fort itself, a soldier was twittering her account of the situation.

Turns out her account was pretty inaccurate, to the point of being deceiving. But the mainstream press, willing to grab at anything they could, took her Twitter posts as valid information and and worked those details into news stories that were circulating fast and furious around the country. Tearah Moore, a soldier from Michigan stationed at Fort Hood, spread more misinformation than honest information through her twittering, including telling people that there was more than one shooter (turns out there was only one, and only one weapon was used), that the shooter had died (he didn’t die and is in fact recovering), and that there were multiple shooting locations within the base including housing and medical areas (there was in fact only one building involved and it was not near housing). It is this kind of citizen journalism that gets mainstream journalists the most upset. No journalist wants to spread misinformation; that is why they are taught to have checks and balances on all stories before they are printed.

I can understand, and appreciate, that the public is clamoring for more information, and that journalists, especially mainstream journalists whose livelihood depends on ratings, want to have the latest information available. But when the line is crossed between accuracy and misinformation, and verification cannot be completed, journalists need to step back and do what they were taught, which is to verify verify verify. I took a lot of journalism classes as part of my public speaking degree, and one thing was made abundantly clear; if information coming from a non-verified source, then the information was suspect. In this case, all of the information from Soldier Moore was suspect; she was not an official spokesperson, her location was inside a hospital where some (not all) of the wounded were being transported, and she had a limited view of what was going on. What she touted as the “truth” was nothing more than her assumptions about what she was seeing. And she was dead wrong in her assumptions.

Social media is just that -social. Even those that are “experts” who may be posting in social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, are still posting on social networks where the spread of misinformation is the norm, and cooler heads are not likely to prevail. In my mind, it is important to always look behind that shimmering curtain and see what is really there, before forwarding that information anywhere else. I am not a journalist, and I am not an official spokesperson for anything other than my own thoughts and opinions, and to pretend to be or do otherwise could border on dangerous, and at the very least is irresponsible.

Soldier Moore will likely face disciplinary charges from the military for her twittering during the crisis, especially in the face of the false spread of information. The journalists who used the misinformation for publication/broadcast will also likely face some sort of disciplinary action as well. But how about the rest of us, who are just the people next door, talking about the car wreck we saw or reporting on the last thing the school board talked about, or snarking about our local businesses or constabulary? Let’s all remember that if it shows up on social media, that it is not anything more than someone’s opinion of something witnessed, and to be good at looking for verification of what we’ve heard before passing it on.

Want to see an Internet Oxymoron?

Posted by J Powers at 9:47 AM on September 8, 2009

Check out this screenshot. Tell me why it’s an Oxymoron:

The Internet Oxymoron

If you said “This is an Associated Press article – I CANNOT share it on Mixx, Buzz, Digg, Reddit, Facebook or Newswire”, then you are correct!

If you go to the A.P.s site, you do not see any sharing widgets. However, if you go to the sites that pay for the content, they could have these little add-ons to try and promote their brand. But with these widgets, they could be in breech of their contract.

The Associated Press has said it doesn’t want to squelch new media, but it will go after sites that post it’s content and make money on it. Isn’t that like EVERY site on the Internet?

Back in June, the AP told their reporters to police social media like Facebook and Twitter. The idea would be to identify and irradicate any posts that violate their usage policies. So you could get a take down notice if you post  or “Re Tweet” those A.P. articles.

If you have a website and you have A.P. content on it, you might want to think about those little blurbs to suggest sharing the articles. You may be inadvertently breaching your contract.

I wonder if someone should start a list of Websites that use A.P. so we all know not to share the data from it. Of course, I am not going to rock that boat. However, if you know of a website that is an Associated Press site, you might want to comment on it below…