January 2009 Archives

Love spotify collaborative playlist

A friend recently sent me an invite for Spotify, a streaming music service that it seems folks I know and who know music are quite excited about. For the sake of accuracy I will admit I may have begged for an invite out of curiousity and because we all want to be in with the cool kids.

I was a bit sceptical to start with, I mean who needs a streaming service when there's a world of downloads, fileshares and the never-say-die mixtape/CD out there? I've got access to all the music in Christendom a couple of clicks away, legally or otherwise.

So I applied my acid test of obscure indie: can I find The Family Cat's Steamroller? Not extremely obscure, just obscure enough that there's a few services I've tried and not been able to find it. No dice.

So I tried another of my favourites: The Senseless Things, Too Much Kissing. No dice there either.

[Incidentally, it would seem that both are on labels that are/were part of the Sony BMG group - clearly they've got higher priorities than digitising early-90s indie that has been all but forgotten by everyone except a few balding 30-somethings.]

So I went away a bit disappointed.

That was until the wonderful Peter Robinson of Popjustice shared a playlist with a bunch of mutual friends and they all started adding their selections to it. Some of them are music industry "insiders", others music fanatics, some like me wish they bought more music and so on.

The joy of it is that I get to pick through what everyone else is listening to, both old and new, pitching me into a huge world of music discovery. A bit like getting mixtapes but only better, more listenable and far more immediate. Turns out my initial disappointment was misplaced.

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How does Web 2.0 make a profit?

It's an important question, one which not enough people are asking. After all, people are in this to make a living, not just because it's cool, aren't they?

I read a great article today called Web 2.0, Revenue Models and Profitability on The Drama 2.0 Show on the subject. It's well worth sharing because it makes some really strong points questioning the viability of some of the most talked about online businesses out there at the moment.

The central theme of the article is that

"Not only are most of the hottest Web 2.0 startups unprofitable, quite a few lack viable revenue models altogether. "

It's tough to disagree when it puts them in the context of their Web 1.0 peers such as Google, eBay and Yahoo, all of whom are, and were, profitable within a few years of starting out.

I remember being party to the dotcom boom and bust of 2000 in the UK when the likes of Clickmango came and went in less time than it takes Royal Mail to deliver a 1st class letter. This was when a savvy operator with a van could asset strip a dotcom of its shiny new iMacs in candy colour on a daily basis and turn a nice gig doing so.

Everyone talks about Boo.com as the defining failure of the period, which to some extent it was, but at least it was brilliant and now looks to have been way ahead of the curve as both a web site and a shopping experience. I look back now and think that maybe they were right about a lot of things. Certainly there's lots of functions that other people have adopted that they were one of the first to attempt.

The rule for business plans in those days seems to be "make sure you're profitable within the first three years". Or at the very worst "get them drunk, but make sure they sign".

Compare that to the noise of Web 2.0 evangelists and companies who are all about conversation and community and making the web a better place. There's taking your time to grow a business and then there's arsing around on the internet pretending that what you are doing can become a business.

A lot of people seem to be dangerously close to buying into the latter which in my view will lead to a dotcom bust far worse than the last. In 2000 we'd only sacrificed our time and energy as unrecoupable expenditure, this time we may find that sacrificing our personal information is cost we're not as happy to write off.

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Paul Mason on the future of journalism

Paul Mason's the Economics Editor for Newsnight, an NUJ rep and someone whose journalism I've got plenty of time for. He's also, in my opinion, been one of the best adopters of/adapters to new technology at the BBC. He's pretty forthright in his views, some of which I personally agree with, in particular on the changing technology and its impact.

As you'd expect it's not being agreed with by some:

I disagree with this man. Journalism needs a better defense than 'protect the craft'. - Patrick Smith

See also : BBC's Paul Mason: Newsrooms offer journalists peer review that 'pyjama bloggers' can't replicate

I didn't get the impression that he was using the "protect the craft" defence, which seems to be the current line of the NUJ (feel free to correct me), more that journalism will survive by identifying and focusing on what makes it unique, such as access, although I don't believe access is necessarily unique or important in some topic areas.

I'm not entirely convinced by Paul's views on how important the newsroom is as a form of peer review though. Arguably you are guaranteed a certain degree of assurance about the experience and authority of those around you compared to that on blogs. But as online identification improves, this should become less of an issue. Then again, I can say that, in terms of seeing if it's got legs, there's a lot to be said for throwing your idea up in a meeting where you've got the immediate reaction from people with a guaranteed wealth of experience.

On a blog you can run away and hide or just delete if you aren't happy with the response - it's rare that you'll ever meet a blogger who hasn't deleted a comment for one reason or another. In a newsroom, you're only option is to tough it out in whichever gathering it is then cry in the toilets later (NB, I have never done the crying bit).

Online response always appears to follow a pretty clear pattern for me where you have to wait for the initial fury to wear itself out before the quality comment starts to emerge. Sometimes you shouldn't and don't need to wade through that to find the story when you have access to it at the next desk.

Or is this all just a bit of navel-gazing from hacks defending their patch from a new platform, same as weavers, farmers, coalminers and just about every other industry that has experienced the massive impact of new technologies?

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