GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The new Timelines option for Facebook users that has been gradually rolled out for individuals in recent weeks will be available to companies for their brand pages, starting at the end of this month, according to Ad Age. The date of the new feature’s availability has been the subject of much speculation but it now appears likely that the company will provide details and introduce Timeline for pages 29 February at a conference it is holding for marketing people.
Ad Age suggests a number of changes that are expected to be part of the new version, more in line with branding needs of companies which have pages.
Mashable in December made a stab at guessing what the new pages’ Timeline might look like.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The great tech war of 2012 is warming up, writes Fast Company, meaning that four biggies are stepping on each other’s toes and pretty soon the slug fest will begin, featuring Amazon, Apple, Facebook nnd Google. “There was a time, not long ago, when you could sum up each company quite neatly: Apple made consumer electronics, Google ran a search engine, Amazon was a web store, and Facebook was a social network. How quaint that assessment seems today.” [bold added by GenevaLunch]
I like Fast Company, a magazine that produces some well-researched and well-written material. But even here, we can’t call it a magazine, in these days of amorphous companies, including amorphous media.
Media is still a line of business, the question is whose
Here’s how Fast Company, what I would call an online news magazine, describes itself; if you look hard you’ll find the word media in there, and note the lack of italics, which are generally used to denote the name of a publication: “Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company and FastCompany.com inspire readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations and create the future of business.”
If you’re one of the sticklers who still wants to know why GenevaLunch calls itself an online daily newspaper when we don’t have a print version, I can only say a) I usually shorten it to “we’re an online daily” to avoid the debate and b) at least we produce news and that’s our main business. We’re part of a shrinking industry, with newspapers trying to hold on to that part of what they do while looking elsewhere to make money. We’re staffed by volunteers, in answer to your unasked question, what’s our business model.
Make way for quasi-news
The latest development in the news industry is the quasi-news business, with two branches. The first is smaller social media tacking on news services to make their sites sticky. At first glance this looks like a smaller, shadow version of the big upcoming tech wars, but that’s an illusion. They mostly stir around the news rather than producing it themselves, they have no editorial team overseeing news although they sometimes hire a reporter or two, hapless freelancers. These groups are a target for the second branch of this new business, companies that produce and sell “news” cheaply to other businesses which want to pitch their own news service without going to the trouble of manufacturing the news themselves. I am getting several calls a week from these new companies, most of which claim to be in London (I have my doubts). Their news packages are a mix of public relations rehashes and re-arranged aggregated news.
This only seems to upset people when the subject is politics and government power, but the quasi-news industry makes sure there is plenty of celebrity stuff to keep interest high. I was told in a call from London last night that they can give me any mix I like of Lady Gaga and what’s happening to the euro.
I turned down the offer.
ProPublica (journalism in the public interest) carried an article in May about the implications of “PR up, journalism down”. Author John Sullivan noted that “the Pew Center took a look at the impact of these changes last year in a study of the Baltimore news market. The report, “How News Happens,” found that while new online outlets had increased the demand for news, the number of original stories spread out among those outlets had declined. In one example, Pew found that area newspapers wrote one-third the number of stories about state budget cuts as they did the last time the state made similar cuts in 1991. In 2009, Pew said, The Baltimore Sun produced 32 percent fewer stories than it did in 1999. Moreover, even original reporting often bore the fingerprints of government and private public relations.”
The demand for news is there, it’s just moved to FB
Farhad Manjoo, author of the Fast Company article, writes that “Facebook, meanwhile, is now more than just the world’s biggest social network; it is the world’s most expansive enabler of human communication. It has changed the ways in which we interact (witness its new Timeline interface); it has redefined the way we share—personal info, pictures (more than 250 million a day), and now news, music, TV, and movies.”
News is like any other product, with R&D, production, packaging, distribution
FB is a distribution channel for news. What does this mean? That someone still has to produce the news in the first place, a fact that quick sharing of news among friends, online, tends to blur. At a social media evening jointly hosted by the US Mission in Geneva and the Diplomacy School a young woman in the audience declared that like most of her friends she doesn’t get her news from news organizations, but from friends online and their links.
Duh, I was a little surprised that for a graduate student she doesn’t seem to have asked herself where the news originally came from, since I don’t think she was talking about citizen news and iReports, which were mostly a flash in the pan and are now used by media to make them appear connected and interactive. I don’t think she meant the Arab Spring with direct-from-the-battle-line reports or the boom in news moving around on cell phone informal networks in Africa. I’m pretty sure she was referring to the various bits and pieces of news shared by friends on FB, Linked in, Twitter and on local social networks, the stuff I see batted around by my friends, colleagues and acquaintances who somehow became online “friends”.
This is news without the packaging. Packaging is part of what magazines and newspapers and now online media offer. The friends distribution system is a free-for-all. The cost goes down as a result of this loss of packaging and distribution, a fact media are beginning to realize can work in their favour.
A nod to the brand
The danger is that the brand disappears. Fast Company is lucky because I made my source clear here, cited them and linked to them. A few hundred other unscrupulous people won’t bother and will rewrite some of what Manjoo wrote, never giving him the credit he deserves for a really interesting and rich article.
And while I’m being honest, I will admit that I found his article because one of my FB friends is The Browser, who makes me sit up and notice all kinds of interesting articles (thanks, dear Browser folks).
Tap-and-pay: do I really want to marry my credit cards to my phone?
Good news, bad news and tech news: they all seem to come in batches. Today it’s the turn of tech news.
Apparently I will soon be able to marry my phone and credit card, not just have them occasionally dating. But marriage is a serious business and I’m not sure I’m ready for it in this case. Google has unveiled what it is calling an “unannounced” product, a credit card size phone that could be the next generation after the Nexus One smartphone. A friend from the US was telling me yesterday that one of his favourite iPhone apps is a barcode reader that promptly tells him the best price and where to get it on products he’s interested in buying. He then orders it and pays for it and within minutes he owns one of the best deals in town.
The new Google phone, reports AFP, “runs on fresh ‘Gingerbread’ software and is imbedded with a near-field communication chip for financial transactions, according to Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.” Schmidt showed off his new toy/product at a web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Schmidt says the industry calls it tap-and-pay, and the phones will replace credit cards. No news on who is building the flatscreen phone.
Lift and the art of digital technologies “as a pervasive layer around people, artifacts and places”
The Geneva Lift Conference 2011, 22-4 February, focusas as always on what the future can do for you, but the next one is more precisely defined by Lift team member Nicolas Nova: “”This year the theme corresponds to the idea that digital technologies can be seen as a pervasive layer around people, artifacts and places; objects as well as individuals, are simultaneously active and passive concentration points.”
Try to pack that into an image that works onstage, on posters and elsewhere! But Bread and Butter, the agency that has long worked closely with Lift, has done it, and the explanation behind the idea offers interesting food for thought.
The death of the e-mail, again
A BBC special guest, young and sexy and intelligent about world affairs, said this morning she has no intention of giving up her e-mail and shifting entirely to Facebook, which she uses. The Washington Post weighed in on the ugliness of the Facebook logo. PC Magazine suggests Facebook is headed down the same “dark road” as AOL, making the same e-mail mistakes. The occasion for all the digital ink was Facebook sending out rumours a week ago followed by the news itself Monday of its new e-mail system. The news turned out to be less dramatic than media feared or expected. Here’s what the Facebook people themselves say about it:
“We are also providing an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. Now people can share with friends over email, whether they’re on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”
So life has just become simpler because we now have even more options, if you follow the argument.
A Swiss man with a terrace overlooking the airport in Samui, Thailand, appears to have been the first person to put photos of the Koh Samui crash in early August online, reports Andy, editor of the Bangkok Bugle, a blog on Thailand and the media there. Within 20 minutes of the crash, the man had posted them on a forum and from there they zoomed to Twitter and from there – the world, mostly with no credit to him. There was an intermediate stop, however: when he posted them on the forum he also sent them off to Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, which did the decent thing and credited him and asked for more photos (here’s a link – forgive us for not showing the image here :–). But the rest of the world didn’t bother too much about the credit or copyright, it seems. He never gave up the copyright – as the author, it’s always yours but conditions of use need discussion – but it sounds like it ran away from him and once gone, you can’t easily get it back.
The post on the Bangkok Bugle raises a lot of issues that need more discussion: how do citizen journalists protect their copyright, how much do citizen journalists know and understand of media laws, how much do media laws in most countries reflect aging dinosaur mainstream media rather than today’s world, and more. Tages-Anzeiger could have done a few things to protect his work, such as embedding his copyright information in the image code, making sure they didn’t run it too large online, and then tracking anyone who ran the image. The last is the most important bit, but the number of media organizations with those kinds of resources is pretty rare.
Twitter and Facebook are the real gray area for most people, individuals and media producers alike. There is a lot of discussion out there about using photos from them, but one of the tricky bits is the right of media people to call on the notion of “fair use” and just use them for news. Ok, but then who is the media, legally speaking? Are aggregators and sites that copy news true news sites? Are legitimate journalists working alone news sites? If you put together a chatty online newsletter for the 10 houses on your street, does that make you an editor? The questions are endless.
One small but common misperception needs airing, too: the idea that information from citizen journalists is often worth serious money. Let’s be realistic – media companies just about everywhere are in far worse financial condition than they say publicly, they barely pay their journalists, they have next to nothing left for freelancers. Time Magazine this week has four ads. Four. Even if they cost a fortune by most people’s standards, that won’t pay the rent, never mind salaries.
But what about those once in a great while photos worth millions, sold to The Sun or Fox?
Buy a lottery ticket; your chances are better.
For the record, I liked the photographer’s attitude, as quoted by Andy. His main concern was to inform people. Now that’s an attitude worth a fortune!
And losing jobs. I was distracted from my job of reviewing media coverage of the US election, when reading the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), by the extraordinary things that go on in the airline industry. The article that caught my eye was one on 13 Virgin Airline employees being sacked for what they said about passengers on Facebook. The airline reminded them that the customer pays their salaries. I’m with the airline on this one.
Cablecom should read this. I had an unpleasant conversation with one of their technical staff that went something like this:
Me: Hi. Our office phones only work for outgoing calls, not incoming ones, since I switched to the new modem you sent. May I please speak to someone who can help me work out the problem with the switcher we use with the modem?
She: Can you describe the piece of equipment?
Me: Switcher? Splitter? It’s a cable, really, not a piece of equipment.
Turns out she’d never heard of a splitter (delivered to us by her company) and she continued to talk over my explanations, insisting I give her a description of the equipment. When, exasperated, I asked to speak to her boss, she hung up on me. She probably has a terrible job, listening to complaints all day, and she sounded young so maybe she hasn’t had a chance to learn that such a job requires patience and good listening skills. I’m sorely tempted to cancel our business Internet, phone and TV account with the company; the only thing stopping me is the hassle.
Back to the airlines. It turns out Facebook isn’t their only problem – check out the “related coverage” stories on the SMH page. Polynesian Airlines lost a body in transit, en route to New Zealand for the person’s funeral. A Jetstar plane flying from Darwin, Australia to Singapore had to return home because of five drunk men whose pre-flight duty-free drinks caught up with them. Meanwhile, in the US, a cheetah got loose in the cargo. And in the Philippines a man lost his 20-year battle with the national airline that grounded him permanently because he was obese.
US elections are starting to sound rather dull.