Thursday, 26 November 2009

News International - the biggest media audience database?

The Guardian reports that Rupert Murdoch's News International holds information on its database about a third of the UK population.

This information has been provided willingly, when consumers sign up for Sky TV, or subscriptions to the Times, Sun, Sunday Times, and News of the World.

In a period of recession it was quite amazing to read that around 200,000 users are rated as 'high value', meaning that they were potentially worth as much as £600 a year each to News International.

When we talk in Media Studies about the relationships between institutions and audiences, it's useful to remember that often these relationships are predicated on financial transactions - the consumer pays, the institution delivers content, and increasingly, enhanced services.

However, the newspaper industry itself seems to be in terminal decline, with readership figures falling and ad revenues getting hammered by the move of advertisers to online sources. It should come as no surprise, then, that News International and the Guardian Media Group have been making noises recently about Google's dominant position. Not only does Google reap advertising revenue from visitors, but, say its detractors, it's 'stealing' revenue via its Google News aggregation service. This provides access to a range of news headlines, but also enables Google to make cash from associated on-screen advertising. This, claim NI et al, is not fair, because Google is in effect recycling someone else's news and making cash from it.

It's an interesting debate, since Google is driving more users to respective news providers, and evidence shows that online browsers are more likely to click on ads if they're using a search engine, and indeed, are more likely to make a purchase. There's a great article here that explains this in more detail.

And, as an end-note, it's worth observing that the Office of Fair Trading has ruled recently that it won't be referring Google to the Monopolies Commission, as it is a major driver for innovation, change and consumer satisfaction.

For the newspapers, they're going to need new business models. For those of us passionate about the media and the future of newspapers, it's going to be fascinating to see if the news print industry can respond to changing market dynamics faster and more effectively than the music industry managed, when faced with threats from online, MP3, and Apple.

Educational Values in a Digital Age

I came across this fascinating blog post from e-learning specialist Steve Wheeler, who works at the University of Plymouth.

His presentation to a group of final year trainee teachers makes for timely reflection. What are we teaching our students? How can they be prepared for a future dominated by digital technology and knowledge economies?

I've embedded Steve's presentation below, but it needs to be read in conjunction with his blog post, in order to make the fullest sense. You can find it here.

As an adjunct to Steve's observations my colleague Britta Bohlinger has written a timely post, looking at the ways in which employers might glean more meaningful data about prospective employees, using the Web as a research tool. You can find her blog here.

The Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009

Jane Hart, an e-learning specialist, who runs the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, has produced a fantastic list of e-learning tools that have come to the fore in 2009. Many of them I know, but there are some undiscovered treasures.

What's interesting is the number of tools that are web based. It's a trend that seems set to continue. For schools, this means that high-speed, high capacity broadband connections will become increasingly important.

View more documents from Jane Hart.

The mobile web is ruling us!

Trendy mobile phone company HTC have released some fantastic TV commercials in the States.

They've hit upon the fact that most of us live with our mobile phones no more than an arm's length away from us a great deal of the time.

Apart from the slick messages being delivered (and thinking about it from the perspective of theorist Stuart Hall, it might be reasonable to assume audiences will read the media text using its Dominant, or Preferred meaning) there's some interesting truths under-pinning the ads.

Increasingly, we're moving to using smartphones, capable of web browsing, image capture, and document production. Many of them link automatically to social networking services, and so indeed, the phone is becoming the accessory of choice that many of us keep nearby almost constantly.

This raises questions of identity, ownership, media consumption and interaction, and indeed poses the possibility that Western cultures, a little like New York, are becoming the ones that never sleep nor stop.

Either way, the adverts are a great example of style, narrative, audience appeal, and great music (Nina Simone's Sinner Man, remixed by Felix Da Housecat). Enjoy!

P.S. If the song seems familiar from another media source, you might be reminiscing subliminally about the Bourne Identity, which used the original Simone song.

Mind mapping for free online

I came across this free mind mapping, web based tool, called

Mind mapping is a great way to visualize your thoughts, and work out the relationships between elements of a project or plan. This could be the delivery of a syllabus, if you're a teacher, or ideas for an essay, if you're a student.

I haven't had a chance to try it out in class yet, but I like the fact it's web based, can be embedded into blogs, and worked on collaboratively. is yet another example of how Web 2.0 technology is providing Software As A Service (or SAAS for short). I'm not sure how many of these companies will earn money, although the received wisdom currently seems to be that you offer the service for free, get in the user base, and then work out a way to charge for premium services. This model's called Freemium, but I'm not sure that we won't end up with another crash at some point.

For now, let's not worry about such matters - we're educators and students after all, and the breadth of the Web means that if one service shuts then another will doubtless spring up in its place.

Blogs as language learning tools

One thing in a French day

I came across this rather good blog, 'One Thing in a French Day.'

Its author, Laetitia, writes daily updates on her life is Paris. Alongside the French one can listen to a podcast of her reading out the text.

It's a great way to listen to contemporary French, while having the text in front of you.

It won't be useful if you're a beginner, as there's no translation, but I've found it a good way to keep my ear in tune for the nuances of spoken French.

I can see it being useful for advanced level students, both in class and at home.

A bientôt!