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Now everyone can be a cartoonist


Now anyone can create their own cartoon strip -Cartoon Generator.

This shows what fun can be had:


Techprclowns_4

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google – New York Times


Link: This Boring Headline Is Written for Google – New York Times.

A good piece which looks at how online sub-editors are now writing headlines in terms of search optimisation rather than traditional journalistic punnery – the point about the BBC site having effectively two headlines – one for SEO and the other for more usual journalistic reasons – is quite telling.

Take these two extracts:

Journalists, they say, would be wise to do a little keyword research
to determine the two or three most-searched words that relate to their
subject — and then include them in the first few sentences. "That’s not
something they teach in journalism schools," said Danny Sullivan,
editor of SearchEngineWatch, an online newsletter. "But in the future,
they should."

And:

Such suggestions stir mixed sentiments. "My first
thought is that reporters and editors have a job to do and they
shouldn’t worry about what Google’s or Yahoo’s software thinks of their
work," said Michael Schudson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who is a visiting faculty member at the Columbia University
Graduate School of Journalism.

"But
my second thought is that newspaper headlines and the presentation of
stories in print are in a sense marketing devices to bring readers to
your story," Mr. Schudson added. "Why not use a new marketing device
appropriate to the age of the Internet and the search engine?"

On the first point, is editorial now simply a means to "wrap" key words?

And on the second, is the prof suggesting that why not cut out middle man (ie editorial) and simply get on with the business of dragging eyeballs to a site?

Just more examples of the Googlisation of our lives…..

VNU’s non-toilet podcast studio


A six-figure investment in the studio facility – that should buy a few professional microphones and tables and chairs.  Though rumour has it VNU’s journalists are getting a bit irked by the extra workload of producing podcasts with no additional renumeration……and the claim that VNU is the first European B2B publisher to have invested in an internet TV service is surely a bit rich – what about  Silicon?


VNU to expand digital offering with content studio

by Alex Donohue Brand Republic 26 Jun 2006

LONDON – VNU Business Publications is to expand its digital media offering to its B2B stable by creating an in-house audio and video content studio for its B2B titles.

The company, which publishes The Inquirer, Computing, IT Week and Accountancy Age, said VNU On Air would incorporate a mixture of breaking news, industry discussion, analysis, podcasts and conference reports, aimed at its 4m monthly users.

VNU Business Publications, the London-based publishing arm of the Dutch-owned VNU Business Media Europe, claims it is the first time a European B2B publisher has invested in an internet TV service.

Ruud Baker, chief executive officer of VNU Business Media Europe, said: "The move will enable the company to take advantage of innovations such as vod, pod and webcasting, and increase the value it provides to both its information subscribers and its advertising partners."

The company said it had been honing its video and audio events offering over the last two years, prompting it to invest in in-house facilities.

The VNU On Air facilities will include four London-based studios and theatre space, equipped to broadcast live-on-air events, streamed content and seminars in HD quality.

John Barnes, publishing director at VNU’s business technology group, added: "We have made a significant six-figure investment in building and equipping the VNU On Air studio complex.

"We have a facility with the scope and flexibility for us to host a variety of events for partners and to offer them a wider range of services with increased levels of audience interactivity."

VNU said the steps were a "significant step" towards transforming its UK and European business output into one capable of "exploiting every possible media platform".

Barnes said: "The new internet video and audio packages we plan to deliver give us ways to strengthen the indispensable connection between highly segmented and identifiable audiences and vendors who want to target them."

Weber Shandwick’s Podcasting Toilet?


A waggish reader at tech PR gossip site the The World’s Leading  has posted an amusing critique of a story in today’s PR Week about the new Weber Shandwick Podcast Studio.

Having now read the original PR Week article, it does seem rather curious that an agency apparently kitting out a room the size of a large cupboard (or small toilet) with a table, chairs, a couple of microphones and a PC, seems to merit such attention.

So, farewell then Scoble….


Link: BBC NEWS | Technology | Top Microsoft blogger to resign.

Will be interesting to see if he retains his blog popularity when he is no longer working for Microsoft.

Telewest HDTV – growing pains


As readers of this blog will know, we’ve had a Telewest TV Drive in the Smith household for a couple of months now. There is no question it has changed our TV viewing habits completely. Other than the news
or, in my case, a live football match, we almost always watch things in time-shift mode. My wife has certainly found the ability to record whole series and watch at a later date to be one of the great advances of 21st century living.

However, one of the reasons my wife agreed to us getting a HD television in the first place was that I’d be banging on to her about the “amazing” picture quality that we’d get. Last week she reminded me of this claim I had made – “so, where is this great HD picture quality then?”. Previously I’d pointed out that in fact there was no HD quality content to watch. That excuse ran out a few weeks ago when Telewest began offering a small selection of progs in HD and the appearance of a BBC HD Channel (admittedly mostly showing an endless loop of BBC HD trailers).

Anyway, there was enough there now for me to try out HD. Or rather to get round the very cumbersome process of getting the TV Drive to output HD pictures. In simple terms, you have to select how you want the TVDrive Box to output the signal eg 4:3, widescreen, HD HDMI, etc. When you select the HD HDMI option, you are then told that it will now test to see if your TV can accept an HDMI signal – trouble is you then have to switch the TV to accept input from a new source ie if you are currently outputting 4:3 on Scart you have to switch to HDMI. Once the test is over, you then have to switch the TV back to Scart – and if you are happy with that, switch back to HDMI and then push the Text button to confirm the setting – if you don’t do it in time, it reverts back to your original setting – and you have to go through the whole process again.

The reason for going into such tedious detail is to spell out how tricky it is to get the HD output working – and I vaguely know what I’m doing. Also, I bet many people will be scared by the worrying warning that says if you try setting HDMI output without being connected to a HD Ready TV, you’ll lose your picture forever and Telewest will kill your first born – or something like that.

Anyway – now that I’d got the HD output working, I tested out BBC HD to see what the difference in picture quality was like – and yes, it is better, but not sure it will be seen by people as being such a vast difference between what they see now.

The other annoyance was that if you then switched to a non-HD channel, you get the picture in 4:3 mode ie with a big black stripe in either side of the picture. I tried using the aspect ratio control to get it to fill the screen – and this where I discovered the fact that you can’t currently adjust the aspect ratio in HD mode with the Telewest box.

According to Telewest: “Unlike standard definition television, HDTV has a native widescreen
format, and your HD television expects to see a widescreen picture. To compensate for this, the TVDrive team chose to add black bars to the left and right of a 4:3 SD channel. We did this for two reasons: (1) our research showed that the majority of people prefer to watch 4×3 programmes
without the image being stretched and (2) it is necessary to keep the video and the graphics plane in tight alignment so that interactive applications such as the multi-screen sports coverage from the BBC looks correct. We understand that many users would like us to offer the ability to zoom
or stretch a 4:3 picture (especially for widescreen programmes shown in 14×9 format) and we’re looking into how best to do this. As stated above,because of the complexity of keeping overlaid graphics in alignment with video this will take us some time to implement.

I have to say I was surprised by reason (1) – perhaps its the Scotsman in me, but I much prefer to have my screen real estate utilised rather than only have some of it displayed. Having said that, there are clearly technical issues around why they have done what they have done.

But – to sum up – we now have the choice of watching everything in non-HD mode (which at least means we get to watch everything in full screen, but defeats the purpose of an HD television) – or watching everything with HDMI output – and having most of the channels with a clipped and unadjustable aspect ratio.

Or I end up going through the previously described rigamarole everytime we want to switch between HDMI and normal – which I know will drive my wife up the wall.

No doubt these are just small stumbles on the way to our nirvana-like HD future – but for the moment, its bloody annoying…..

Press Releases Are More Popular Than Reported News, Says Study


Says this piece from US mag Information Week

"The real headliner in this is that the most used content type
among knowledge workers for business purposes has switched to press
releases," says Outsell VP and analyst Roger Strouse. Until recently,
he says, trade journals had occupied the top spot.

Strouse posits several possible explanations for the rising
popularity of press releases. "It may be that press releases are easier
for people to get their hands on," he says. "It may be that press
releases are shorter and pithier. It may be that they’re oftentimes
free and come right into an RSS reader."

Which means the "press release is alive/dead" debate will continue to roll on. Though I’m sure most journalists would dispute whether press releases are shorter or pithier.

Thanks to Tom Murphy for the spot PR Opinions

Why phishing catches punters – The Register


Scary stuff.

Link: Why phishing catches punters | The Register.

Users fixate on the weirdest things

The site that fooled all but one participant in the study was for Bank of the West (that’s a link to the real website … or is it?). On that site was a cute animated video of a bear. Evidently that tickled a number of the users who reloaded the page several times to see that animated bear. In fact, some of the participants said that the animation was proof that the site was legit, since it would take too much effort to copy it!

The ordinary folks in the study also figured that if a site has ads on it, then that increases the likelihood that it’s not a fake. Likewise, the presence of a favicon (the little icon that appears in the address bar to the left of the URL) was deemed indicative of a site that was not out to steal your money and identity. Amazing what people glom onto.

Is Pubsub dead?


Link: TechCrunch � Blog Archive � Pubsub Implosion.

Which might make my question about how it works redundant…..

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