Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘Social media

Tomorrow’s (virtual) fish ‘n’ chip paper*

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Hitwise, the website traffic monitoring organisation, has recently revealed that, in the US, Facebook’s website had more traffic than Google’s over the course of a full week, reaching 7.07% of all site visits in the week ending 13 March compared to Google’s 7.03% share. Evidently, one in every seven visits to websites (in the US) is to one of these two – an example of the extent to which both organisations have come to dominate our web lives (Facebook has doubled its number of users in the past twelve months, as the FT’s report of this same story indicates).

Facebook has previously had more traffic than Google over the course of single days, frequently at holiday times, but not over a full week. This was the first occasion on which Google has not ranked No. 1 since September 2007 [registration required; limited viewing time]. Additionally, it is clear that, whereas Google’s overall share has been growing slowly to the point where it is almost static, Facebook has been swallowing market share, rising from around 2.5% of all website visits around one year ago.

One of the interesting follow-on aspects to this story is provided by a couple of stories that Hitwise posted a few weeks previously: one referring to another blog commenting that, following a company news blog posting encouraging users to set up a news feed on their Facebook pages, Facebook could become a significant distribution force for news content on the web; the other that the sorts of news sites that Facebook users access is fundamentally different to those accessing news via Google News, being much more geared to ‘broadcast’ as opposed to ‘print’ media.

Google itself is still the largest point of reference for news and media sites, originating over 17% of traffic to news and media sites, while Facebook is 4th largest, accounting for 3.52% (in turn ahead of Google News’s 1.39% share). Combined, Facebook and Google News account for a very small proportion of traffic to news sites – and it would be interesting to see a similar balance for Google, as the top provider of ‘upstream clicks’. Nevertheless, the list of news sites that accrue from clicks via Facebook being so different to the more traditional, heavyweight news sites that accrue via Google News provides an insightful comment on the changing use of the internet. I’m tempted to say that the news and media sites to which Facebook offers ‘upstream’ traffic more or less offer ‘news lite’ content – that would, perhaps, be a bit unfair, but it is clear that weather, entertainment, humour and the attempt to provide user-relevant, or user-oriented, news stories (and applications) predominate on Facebook compared to the ‘here’s what’s happening’ approach of traditional news sites.

That by itself is an eye-catching (and, actually,  quite uncomfortable, albeit not particularly new) comment on how we use the internet to read news (and what we are likely to read while we’re there), as well as the sorts of sites that are more likely to land underneath our mouse. This leads to a discussion not least of the future of online news sites, how they might look, etc. – and whether and how they might charge us for content in the future. It has long been an aim of some online newspapers to charge for access (and not just those within the ownership of the Murdoch clan, either), to which the usual counterpoint has been the availability of alternative, ‘free’ sites (in inverted commas because the alternative funding models, based on advertising, underpinning such sites mean that you pay for it somewhere, somehow); or, otherwise, the ability of news services to ‘scrape’ news stories from paid-for sites, thereby getting around the payment angle.

The rise of Facebook and the different approaches its users have to accessing news media, however, offers another – the traditional news media sites are, increasingly, not what we want to visit anyway.

This doesn’t preclude the possibility of online sites charging for access – for which you might be prepared to do to keep up with a news approach to which you are instinctively sympathetic or a favourite commentator, for example. But it does seem likely to put another obstacle in the way of the pay-for-content model. It will be interesting to see how the Murdoch clan et al. get around that.

* As long as the fish ‘n’ chips doesn’t become virtual, too.

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Written by Calvin

17/03/2010 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Web life

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Doesn’t he work for a trade union?

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According to a survey on the state of technological knowledge amongst ordinary people, 10% of people on the streets of London believe Steve Jobs, chief executive and co-founder of Apple, to be a trade union leader. Other leading figures in the industry, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the internet, also fared poorly (9% thought he worked for MI5, which would appear to reflect the pervasive influence of James Bond films: Bernard Lee was M (albeit of MI6) in all Bond films up to Moonraker), while the apparently inexorable rise of social media sites still meant that 11% of respondents couldn’t name a single one without prompting. Do check out the YouTube video on the survey link, by the way – especially the very last interviewee, in front of Westminster Cathedral: a ‘guess the title of his daily newspaper’ competition will follow…

Well, (a) it’s nice that trade unions still feature strongly enough in public life to make it on to these sorts of questionnaire; and (b) that people do still remember enough about trade unions for us to feature somewhere on their horizons. (Obviously, aside of the issue of entirely random answers that questionnaires sometimes generate.)

Perhaps it’s the name ‘Steve’ – a good, solid name befitting a trade unionist – which resulted in the mis-identification of Steve Jobs. Indeed, in Prospect there are quite a few ‘Steves’ amongst the union’s cadre of negotiations officers. I’m not sure that Apple is yet unionised so as to make Steve Jobs a credible choice for union leader, however – though the company does seem to have been involved in labour rights violations in the past…

Written by Calvin

15/01/2010 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Labour movement stuff

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BBC Trust gives approval for Canvas

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Following earlier media reports, the BBC Trust – which governs the structural policy aspects of the operation of the BBC – has today given provisional approval for BBC participation in Project Canvas, the Corporation’s own joint venture initiative for internet TV.

The language of the earlier reports remained extremely tentative, not so much about the Trust’s likely approval of the Project itself, but more a reflection of the uncertainties over the project itself. Project Canvas, which is a joint venture involving a number of media players other than the BBC, including ITV, Channel Four, Five, BT and Talk Talk (and which has it’s own unofficial blog – though this looks rather similar to the project’s own newly-established website), is a means of making the BBC’s iPlayer service, as well as other similar offerings from other broadcasters and particular internet services (including Facebook, YouTube and Flickr), available via Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes. It is a successor to earlier BBC initiatives in the same area. Essentially, the project is designed to develop an internet protocol standard for TV sets as a means of exploiting the internet-ready TVs expected to come on to the market in 2010 and to take up 20% of it.

The Project is not without controversy, nor opponents (including Virgin Media and BSkyB), and the BBC Trust has placed several conditions on the Corporation’s participation in it, as well as a period of further consultation. DRM (digital rights management), quality standards and fairness to rivals are all likely to be issues which need tackling, as Ofcom has stated in the past.

Should it be successful, its effect on network provision – with the the iPlayer already under criticism for swamping networks – is likely to be significant, and this has already had its effect on what Project Canvas should look like, particularly whether it should mimic the iPhone apps store, with additional and premium services the subject of separate fees.  Consequently, its impact on current free-to-air television – which is central to the BBC Trust’s deliberation of the concept, given the licence fee funding basis for the BBC, as well as to BSkyB’s own stated objections, is less certain – as its impact on cannibalising the BBC’s own programming schedules. Furthermore, and similar to the arguments around online newspapers: if you only watch the TV programmes you want to watch, rather than the ones that you really ought to watch, what future for news programmes and quality investigative reporting?

Written by Calvin

22/12/2009 at 1:06 pm

A copyright nut

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No, not me.

A story in today’s The Scotsman reports that a 16-year-old schoolboy is facing a £5,000 royalties charge for breach of copyright for filming, editing and posting on YouTube 10-minute highlights of games involving his favourite football team. (Of course, it’s his local team and good quality clips they are, too.)

So, the team: Celtic? Rangers? St Johnstone? And whose copyright is infringed: the BBC? STV? None of these: but the mighty Buckie Thistle, in the first place; and, in the second, well – that’s a bit confused. It’s not his club which is threatening the charge – he has the full support of the Buckie Jags – but the Highland League, whose official – John Grant – maintains that it has copyright on games involving League teams and that the League’s permission to film had never been sought.

When it comes to matters of principle,  this site absolutely defends the rights of copyright holders – except that this (as the lawyer in The Scotsman indicates) is not actually a copyright issue: the rights holder here is actually likely to be the lad himself. Most football clubs have some sort of ground regulations prohibiting the filming of events (usually because they want to sell the rights on and amateur filming inhibits their ability to do so) and quite often these will stem from generic regulations applied within the appropriate football association. I have no idea whether this is the case within the Highland League or at Buckie Thistle – though the Jags’s support for his activities indicates the club are at least prepared to waive these in his case. But, neither of these appears to have been the ‘offence’ with which he is charged. And no-one this season appears to be broadcasting highlights of Highland League games.

John Grant isn’t, perhaps, the guilty party: officious, yes; wrong: absolutely. An amateur himself, he can’t be blamed for not knowing the ins and outs of the law. But, sometimes, a blind eye needs to be turned, you know? A League Committee meets to discuss the issue in January and it’s to be hoped that the common sense solution – permission to film games is first sought and then given (without a charge for royalties) – is the one that then prevails. In the meantime, you can sign a petition in support of ‘Buckie Jags Man’ – David Smith – here.

Written by Calvin

17/12/2009 at 11:02 am

Posted in Social policy

Tagged with ,

McCarthy in Twitterhunt

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Labour’s ‘Twitter tsar’ Kerry McCarthy has been the subject of one of comedian Ross Noble’s ‘Twitterbombard Tuesdays’, in which he encourages his followers to bombard – ‘nicely’ – public figures and organisations with nonsense messages.

Kudos to McCarthy for being a good sport and for realising the joke relatively quickly.

I’m not a twitterer myself, but I’m not going to take the supercilious line about wondering whether this is a suitable use of a politician’s time; nor am I going to be po-faced about it and question the point of it. Twitter provides a tool among many others and we should use it. Ultimately, it’s light hearted; несерьезный, in the delicious slavic adjective; a joke; a bit of fun.

But if the next election is indeed going to be the first ‘new media election’, let’s hope that the strategy is a little less about spending time on agendas set by others, or about whatever’s trending on Twitter; and neither let’s pretend that this is political engagement: Tory leader David Cameron is already on the menu for next Tuesday’s ‘bombardment’ and no doubt he – or, probably more correctly, his aides – are already preparing for that (i.e. for how it is reported). In a world where the political debate is more about appearance than substance, Twitter is a perfect zeitgeist.

Written by Calvin

09/12/2009 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Politics

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Camera reunited with owner by Facebook

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A story is popping around about Facebook’s role in re-uniting a camera lost on holiday on Mykonos with its owner.

The finder, having failed to locate the owner by wandering around Mykonos’s chora, and attracted by the six degrees of separation theory, set up his own Facebook group (Needle in a Haystack) determined that, if all his contacts signed up all their contacts and all their contacts… the owner would eventually be found. Starting in mid-October from a membership of 40, the group grew to over 230,000 before its French owner was eventually found (though within how many degrees is not known) after a friend spotted himself in one of the pictures taken off the camera and posted on the group’s page.

It’s a sweet story – provided, of course, that the professions of those involved that this is a genuine story are accurate and this is not another balloon boy hoax – but perhaps most of all in that it demonstrates the power of the internet to shrink the world: an Australian man working on the UK music festival circuit over the summer finds a camera while holidaying on a Greek island and manages to locate its French owner currently working in London…

Written by Calvin

05/11/2009 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Technology

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