Saturday, July 18, 2009

"1984" and the Kindle -- a brave new world?

        In the supreme irony, Amazon showed us that we're in a new world by deleting George Orwell's novel, "1984," from all users' Kindles because of a technical problem with ownership of the rights to the book. Thank about it, deleting "1984" -- can big brother be any more clumsy?
       The implications are huge. Who owns the books on your Kindle, you or Amazon or maybe someone you've never heard of?  As we move more and more to a digital world, we become more and more vulnerable to questions like this. I realized this a couple of years ago when my iPod was erased because my computer was reset. I eventually got the iPod memory back, but only when an Apple tech took me outside the Apple store and told me how to retrieve it. We had to go outside since it wasn't an approved Apple fix.
       The Kindle wiping only adds to the questions opened by our new world of hosting everything on the Internet.  If I don't physically hold that data, who owns it?  Amazon shows that it believes it has the right to go into our expensive reading devices and delete something we've paid for.  Does that mean that if I buy Microsoft Office and it's hosted by an Internet site, I can lose the rights (or access) to it?
       Paper and ink (and CDs and DVDs) may be expensive to produce compared to pure digital. But at least you own it, and can be sure it will appear.  If I'm only reading my newspaper online, what happens if someone decides I shouldn't read certain stories. It happens now in China and Iran as well as lesser-known places. I suspect we are going to have more of these questions raised in the future.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ad spending expected to increase

In what has to be a good sign for everyone, advertising spending is expected to increase for virtually all forms of media -- except for local newspapers. The latest Advertiser Optimism Report indicates improved confidence (meaning more spending expected) in most sections, although broadcast TV, radio, magazines and national newspapers are still weak, and local newspapers are still trending negative.
As an observer who has watched the local metro newspaper slash and burn its advertising sales department, I've wondered how it thinks that local advertising will recover if there is no one left to sell ads. I've heard anecdotally that there are so few advertising salespeople that only major accounts are receiving even rudimentary service, and that things have reached the point where prospective advertisers can't even find anyone to take their money.
Meanwhile, the geniuses who have driven American business into the ground by totally misreading their markets continue to pour the few dollars they are allocating to advertising into digital, a largely unproven medium.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

News sites all to charge, editor predicts

        The editor of the Financial Times predicts that virtually all news sites will be charging for access within a year. I predict it will start much sooner. Somehow journalism must be financed, and the advertising model seems to be collapsing (although I'm still waiting for someone to show that online advertising works; in fact, might part of the economic collapse be corporate decisions virtually eliminating traditional advertising?). 
      Before you write off Lionel Barber's opinion as "just that of a British journalist," realize that the dynamic changes in journalism are coming from outside the U.S. In fact, even within the U.S., the biggest positive changes seem to be coming from the empire of an Australian, Rupert Murdoch whose Wall Street Journal is leading the way in many ways. And, as I noted previously, the foreign newspapers I've read in the past few months (from India, Italy and Australia) all seem far more robust than virtually all American newspapers, even in cities where there are several daily publications.
       It's a good thing some publishers are looking ahead, not just worrying about surviving.