30 November 02004

Roundtable discussion: Beyond the digital download

Tomorrow afternoon I'm taking part in a roundtable discussion on how consumer behaviours may change as music radio, music TV, digital downloading and music retail overlap more and more. I'm one of the panel members along with Andrew Harrison (Associate Editor of Word), John Strickland (CEO of Tunetribe), Simon Hopkins (Head of BBC Music Online), John Ingham (Head of Content Development at O2), and Seth Jackson (Head of Marketing at YR Media).

The event (in central London) is organised by Fathom, and entry is only by their invitation. There may be one or two last minute places, and you could ask Jon Watts or Sarah Bradley there if you'd like to come.

29 November 02004

Does content protection undermine usability?

The INDICARE project is dedicated to researching the consumer acceptability of Digital Rights Management (DRM) in Europe — its partners include two German organisations, one Dutch, and one Hungarian. Its web site features regular and insightful articles on content protection across different platforms — mobile, Internet — and reviews from a user perspective.

Usability of online content affects its sales. But often the interests of users are pitched against those of providers. Users are perceived as wanting complete control over the media content in their possession, free of any DRM restrictions. Providers and copyright owners are seen to be 'getting in the way' of users by pegging back the sharing and unpaid distribution of their material.

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27 November 02004

Confusion is merely the state of being well informed

Humument Fragment by Tom PhillipsIn an interview in the catalogue for his current exhibition at Flowers East gallery, Tom Phillips attributes the quote in the title of this article to Winston Churchill in response to a troubled subordinate. Whenever I engage with Phillips' work, I get a confused feeling of being both inspired by the elegant simplicity of some of the technique and intensely humbled by their breadth of scope and beautiful execution.

There's a lightness of tone and refinement of taste that tickles you in lots of places. That may seem a strange thing to say about a piece like Manpower, which stitches prostitutes' phone-box flyers in a quilt, with stealth bombers woven into the American flag, but I'm standing by it.

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24 November 02004

Digital media networking meeting in London

It's short notice, but if you're in London tomorrow evening, and fancy meeting a group of 15-20 professionals in the new media, television, film, music, press/publishing, radio and advertising sectors — very informal over a drink or two — then please come along to this event that I've organised. It's at The Gate in Farringdon (map) and starts at 6.30. It's free, open to all, and no salesmen will call.

For more details of the background, see the details of last month's meeting.

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13 November 02004


It's unlikely that I'll be posting any new articles here in the next ten days or so, due to other commitments. Normal service will resume towards the end of the month.

12 November 02004

The Music of Loudspeakers (notes from CyberMusic event)

Having organised the three-day symposium for Cybersonica '03 and edited the proceedings, it was a more relaxing experience to attend today's event as a punter. (Apparently Cybersonica '05, scheduled for late April, will return to full-length format.)

My notes from the event focus mainly on Robert Worby's talk on "The Music of Loudspeakers" and Jon Cambeul's Wacom tablet guitar.

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11 November 02004

The economics of consumer attention

Here's the beginning of an article I've written for the current issue of Five Eight — for the full article, please subscribe to Five Eight monthly.

A recent survey by The Guardian asked the question "Where do you go to find out what music to listen to?" Of the sixteen options they listed as possible answers, over a third are web-based and did not exist a decade ago. What's more, these online channels are themselves fragmented, each jockeying for listeners' attention.
So where should the industry invest its money and effort to reach its target audience? The economics of consumer attention suggest strategies that target 'trusted intermediaries' to build profile and reputation. Only when an act already has an established reputation capable of guaranteeing attention is going direct to the audience a reliable tactic. [excerpt ends]

[Update 25 May 02005: Five Eight's editor has kindly agreed that this article is now a 'catalogue' item and can be published here in its entirety, so here it is (including links not available in the print version!).]

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9 November 02004

Outline for social software to enhance personal media collections

I had an idea today for a bit of software and/or web-based service that would combine the features of cataloguing all your personal media collection (CD, DVD, digital files of various formats) and linking each item to the commentary (reviews, interviews, fan comments) that may enrich your experience of the song, album or film. This would combine the database functions of software like Media Catalog Studio with the facilities for sharing and 'social tagging' of resources offered by del.icio.us and Flickr.

It would enable you to compile your own 'boxed set' for your favourite albums, artists and films: the core media content that you've acquired through normal retail channels, plus the 'extras' that you and others have compiled to go with it.

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8 November 02004

Learning songcraft via the web

The Edutainment field has, deservedly, got itself a bad name for not delivering on its promises. Often the premise has been that people see learning as boring or stodgy, so it has to be smuggled in, Trojan-horse-style, under the guise of a game or a celebrity-driven story. The Radio 2 Sold on Song web site shows this need not always be the case.

This is a resource that people can either dip into for snippets and details about personal favourite songs or use as an extended, and fairly rich, introduction to songcraft, its leading exponents, and how to go about it. Here's an account of how and why I think this site works.

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4 November 02004

iPods, podcasting and learning

A couple of weeks ago I speculated about podcasting breaking out of traditional radio and journalism models to find new applications. Since then, I've found that many people are ahead of me in thinking about applications, particularly to learning.

I first came across Podcasting for Education by D'Arcy Norman, which makes some suggestions for using podcasts for lectures, interviews and similar audio resources. A couple of days ago, Steve Sloan started his Edupodder weblog, and in his first posting there, he mentions support for learners with reading or other learning difficulties, and multilingual education, among other possibilities.

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3 November 02004

Unpacking the digital boxed set concept

Still on the subject of Apple's latest iPod announcement, one element that got less attention than others was the introduction of the concept of the digital box set — in this case 400 U2 tracks bundled together and downloadable with a single click, plus $149. Steve Jobs describes this just over 28 minutes into this stream of the event.

Such commentary as there has been has focused on the pricing, since 400 tracks for $149 works out at a lot less than the 'standard' $0.99 per track. But I find pricing boring: the idea of reducing unit price for bulk purchases is not an innovation to set the pulse racing.

What's interesting about the digital box set is that it recreates the idea of a collection — remember how many people have been saying that downloads herald the end of the album — though I think this first example of the genre is a fluffed opportunity.

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2 November 02004

The tricky ergonomics of mobile video

At last week's Apple special event, Steve Jobs gave some reasons why he thinks mobile video is not an attractive proposition right now, and hence not something Apple is going to build into iPods in the near future. Some people think he is wrong. Bill Gates sees video as a key part of his Digital Entertainment Anywhere vision: according to him it's simply that "video today is sort of where music was… four years ago". Meanwhile there were reports yesterday of new research suggesting consumers are not exactly gagging for mobile video, compared with music and audio.

Most of the discussion focuses on the scarcity of content for mobile video and small screen size, but I haven't seen much coverage of the straightforward ergonomic and cultural differences of mobile video and mobile audio:

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1 November 02004

New DJ Alchemi bookmarks and feeds

As promised three weeks ago, I've now added several links to my archive of bookmarks, which stands at 185 entries so far, from the home page. The seven most recent bookmarks are displayed as well.

Since I'm tracking a developments in digital music a lot at the moment, I've included a direct link to this largest category of bookmarks. But you can access any of the categories by adding the category name to the URL http://www.furl.net/members/davidjennings/, so for my e-learning bookmarks can be found at http://www.furl.net/members/davidjennings/e-learning, and so on.

If you use any news aggregator software or service, you can get these bookmarks at aggregate or category level using the RSS feeds.

For more details on the workings and implications of Furl and other approaches to 'social bookmarking, see this recent article by Brian Lamb, who's making similar use of the Furl service.