British viewers will be asked to help set the BBC licence fee, according to the culture secretary (reg. req.):

The government is to canvass the public on how much they are willing to pay for the BBC, and this market research will contribute towards the final decision on the level of the next licence fee settlement, which comes into effect in April 2007.

An idea for this man?

Transparency Int. versus the blog community

How to escalate a non-story and make a PR disaster for yourself: A blogger named Moni learns that her friend didn’t get her contract at the German chapter of Transparency International renewed. Moni doesn’t like that and writes a (very civilized) blog post criticizing Transparency for not living up to its own high standards. A couple of months go by, then Moni receives a strict e-mail from Transparency’s lawyers saying that if she doesn’t remove the post, they will take legal measures. Moni blogs about this (and removes the post – but it’s there in the cache), and of course this is what happens:

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Bloggers in Germany and internationally pick up the story and it spins out of Transparency’s control. Moni storms up the blog charts. German media get interested – interview with Moni in Netzeitung.

Now the story seems to be over: Moni’s blogging lawyer just issued a statement saying Transparency won’t pursue the issue further. And Moni confirms. Transparency, meanwhile, wonders what hit them: “Whatever we do, it’s wrong… Maybe we shouldn’t have reacted at all”, says spokesman Bäumel.

The living, public service web


Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake of Flickr on the cover of Newsweek, illustrating a story on the new web optimism often and rather unimaginatively called Web 2.0. Newsweek calles it the Living Web.

What happens when the institutions society has created to produce and share knowledge and entertainment meets this restless, very much alive web, which is built on exactly that premise of production and sharing? Institutions such as the university and the public service broadcasters?

Let’s just say that not all of those institutions know much about what to do. And that many of them just want to protect whatever privileges they have. All the more reason to applaud initiatives such as Virksomme ord, a database of political speeches in Norway from 1814 to the present produced by the University of Bergen. Very basic so far, but most importantly: with speeches in full text with permalinks, and searchable.

But there’s also reason for skepticism: Why is the public broadcaster NRK, financed with a compulsory license fee, so passive on the web? According to the head of the National Library, all the NRK’s radio programmes are transmitted to the library every night, and “some of it is searchable through some libraries”. Well, here’s a free idea: Why not make the programmes instantly searchable for everyone from the NRK website? Including historical material? That would be a real public service of the web.

Words don’t come easy

As a warm-up to tonight’s Champions League action, what’s better than to replay this Ronaldinho ad for Nike? Surely it’s somehow faked, right? Though the player himself denied it (while a Nike spokesman confirmed doctoring the video – Ronaldinho “only” hit the crossbar twice).

Chances are you received the video as an e-mail attachment from a friend, or maybe you were e-mailed the link to YouTube or another of the video services. Or you read about it in a blog. In either case, it would be an example of successful word of mouth marketing. More or less funny or spectacular videos have been circulating the web for years, and still most of them are non-commercial, according to Matthew Smith of The Viral Factory, one of the speakers at an MSN seminar in Oslo last Friday. The key to successful “viral” ads is to produce material that people really want to share, and to dare lose control of the message. Smith is among the people predicting the end of broadcasting, as technology makes it easy for people to piece together their own video menu. The utopia is that “Good content will be the only content” – since there no longer will be necessary to fill a daily 12 hour schedule.

The viral world view was shared by Erik Holmdahl of ad agency Strawberry Frog: It’s all about creating campaigns that people like to talk about. Holmdahl certainly enjoyed telling the story of the Lovely Football campaign for Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. Very charming song in karaoke style with competition element. That messages are overtly commercial does not seem to be an obstacle to success. Ads are accepted as long as we can choose to see them – not being forced to.

Smith provided more examples, such as Trojan Games and Share the pain – what users dream about doing to the IT department.

All this reminded me of the fabulous Fox ad starring the tough Turkish diver. Word of mouth years ago. And of course it was up there on YouTube.

More fish in more water

Philosopher Jürgen Habermas on the disruptive effects of the media and the internet on the role of the intellectual:

On the one hand, the communication shift from books and the printed press to the television and the Internet has brought about an unimagined broadening of the media sphere, and an unprecedented consolidation of communication networks. Intellectuals used to swim around in the public sphere like fish in water, but this environment has become ever more inclusive, while the exchange of ideas has become more intensive than ever. But on the other hand the intellectuals seem to be suffocating from the excess of this vitalising element, as if they were overdosing. The blessing seems to have become a curse. I see the reasons for that in the de-formalisation of the public sphere, and in the de-differentiation of the respective roles. (translation by sign and sight)

Noteworthy, not least since many invoke Habermas’ concept of the public sphere when discussing the impact of blogs and other forms of user-driven publishing.

The excerpt is from the acceptance speech for the Austrian Bruno-Kreisky-Preis. Habermas concludes that there’s really only one skill that still distinguishes the intellectual from other participants of the public sphere: An avantgarde sense of relevance (“den avantgardistischen Spürsinn für Relevanzen”). The intellectual must be able to discover new and troubling developments in society while the others still are busy with business as usual – and sound the alarm bell without overreacting. Complete text in German (pdf).

A classic intellectual skill that Habermas doesn’t highlight, is the ability to put issues in historical perspective, argue in a concise way and then draw conclusions of moral and logical clarity. Wouldn’t this be more realistic to expect of intellectuals in this fast-moving world? Brilliant example: Andre Glucksmann on caricatures and Auschwitz.

UPDATE: Liberale Stimme Online dissects bloggin’ Jürgen.

Newspapers in a hurry

As in other countries, the Norwegian internet world is buzzing with acquisition plans, launching of new news sites and what looks like a desperate scramble for “traffic”. Lots of healthy activity going on, then? That’s maybe too rosy. According to a study by Sigurd Høst, in 2005 only 75 out of 182 Norwegian newspapers with news websites updated their sites more often than once every 24 hours.

That the slow newspapers should hurry is evident from today’s new media barometer from Statistics Norway. Internet use surged in 2005 because of rapid adoption of broadband. 55 percent of Norwegians are online every day, up from 44 percent in 2004.

In 2005, 54 percent of users read news on an average day. That’s up from 41 percent in 2001, so the news audience is growing. 30 percent now get news from other sources than the online versions of printed newspapers.