Archive for the ‘disruption’ Category

The Whisky Web

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

How can you compete when you don’t know who your competition is? The mistake that dinosaur Murdoch, the foe of Google, and the rest of the old publishing world made was competing against each other in a dwindling space, whilst agile new companies stepped in and ate the fresh new lunch that was there for the taking.

When you look at a company like Whisky Media you can only admire what it is up to. After raising another $2.5m from from friends and family at the end of last year, it noted, ‘We believe that we are at the center of a new wave of publishing that is socially-centered, and is also in the truest sense authentic to its category. We believe that the media brands we have developed with our “Whiskey Powered” process and technology platform will truly change how we all enjoy media, and we’re looking forward to going to even more categories we love next year. It looks to be a great time.’

Cartoon Crowd

So what is this whisky power all about? Well, it uses technology to harness the crowds to create community, to create content, to share a common interest. One of their products is Anime Vice – an anime and manga community that anyone can edit. Another is the world’s largest editable video game database The platform that they use is a cross between wikipedia and a forum, with some social media spice thrown in.

Recently I have seen more newspapers making an effort to engage, especially in their travel sections where readers are invited to send in their favorite trips. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Even a paper that gets it like has comments switched off for many of its articles. This just isn’t good enough. These days we expect to be able to comment at a minumum, and as the whisky web expands it is those sites that we will gravitate to.  Sites where we can co-create and share a richer experience.

The changes that Whisky Media is making to available technologies seem incremental to me, but often a small change can make a big impact. What they do very well is create authentic communities, and that seems to come from the fact they have a genuine interest in the topics before creating an online space for them. I look forward to seeing what new sites they launch this year.

Crowdsourcing is Evil

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

crowdsourcing-translationSo say the 102 misguided translators who have signed up to the petition, “Professional Translators Against Crowdsourcing and Other Unethical Business Practices

According to their petition professional translators and interpreters all over the world have been expressing their concerns over the ethical problems posed by crowdsourcing and how this practice negatively impacts an already suffering industry.

Basically they are saying translation is a skilled task that requires training, whereas crowdsourcing bases itself on non-professional translation provided by people who are not qualified to translate in the first place. In particular, they take issue with Twitter and Facebook asking professional translators who use their sites to provide free online services.

As someone who has worked with translators and interpreters extensively I totally agree that these are highly skilled professions. You really do get what you pay for, and the top professionals can pretty much name their price. I know of a Japanese to English translator who works out of Australia for US$350,000 per annum. Having built up his credibility doing translations for banks in Japan he hopped on a plane to Aus to work freelance from Perth. It wouldn’t be my first choice of location if I could live anywhere, but there you go. I also remember that when we did financial press conferences there was one interpreter who charged $2,500 for an hour, which was around 30% greater than her peers. But we always tried to get her because she was so much smoother than the others.

Whilst I have great respect for translators I don’t see how they can seriously object to companies sourcing poor quality translations if that is what they are happy with. It’s not like someone posing as a doctor and messing up your heart by-pass when they cut into the wrong chamber in the heart.

But what is really going on here is that these crowdsourced translations are pretty good, and thus a serious competitive threat to translators. It’s one further example of the rise of the amateur and the effectiveness of crowdsourcing in certain situations.

Good translators should not be complaining. They should be looking at ways to remain competitive.

Tyrannosaurus Murdoch Fossilizes Before Our Eyes

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Victim of Google Theft

The internet’s disruptive effect on print media is coming to a head, and the dinosaur Murdoch is going to fossilize before our very eyes. It’s the height of entertainment to watch him blame the theft of content for his empire’s demise, when in fact he is partly to blame for our current perilous situation: this is the man who has conditioned the masses to accept entertainment and information of the lowest form.

The cost of production of media is not just reduced by technology, but also the fact that people accept lower standards these days. Let’s face it, journalism of The Sun’s standard hardly needs professional journalists to write it (the paper is Britain’s biggest selling daily and a Murdoch rag). So while Murdoch pays Oxbridge graduates to write about Tiger Woods’ ‘piece of rough’ it is no surprise that the likes of Perez Hilton can undercut him blogging out of a coffee shop.

A sad reflection on our times is that the Miami Herald has five million online visitors a month and is going out of business. According to DN Journal, ‘the paper says the problem is that they can only charge online advertisers about a tenth  of what their print advertisers have been paying and that is not enough to cover their news gathering nut.’ If you are unable to monetize five million visitors a month then you either have some serious overhead, or don’t understand how to convert visitors into cash. I guess it’s a combination of both for the Miami Herald.

The Herald has started asking its readers for donations, which is perhaps a bit more progressive than Murdoch, but unfortunately I think that the real problem is that people are no longer willing to pay for quality journalism, and are prepared to settle for something less rigorous. Of course, this decline in standards is happening in tandem with the realization by most companies that the value of print advertising is minimal when compared to alternatives that involve customer engagement. But let’s set that aside, and concentrate on the fact that we no longer need quality.

TechCrunch predicts the end of hand crafted content, and companies like Demand Media are pumping out moderate prose that Google ranks highly. The only way that this sea of mediocrity can be slowed is if the search engines tweak their algorithms to give higher weightings to quality measures such as bounce rates. Given that Google is an advertising company, and the readers of Demand’s products have a decent CTR I shouldn’t expect too much from Big G. Perhaps they are getting tired of scanning all the books for their online library and are happy to see us reduced to a tweeting rabble.

Disclosure: I read The Sun for the football coverage :-)

Related posts that I have commented on: