30 September 02005

Finding and auditioning music online

If online music services are really going to take off, they need to demonstrate that they work, and work well. That means a seamless of experience of discovering tracks, previewing or 'auditioning' them, and committing either to buying them (in the à la carte, iTunes-style model) or downloading them 'to go' (in the subscription model of Napster, Rhapsody and Yahoo Music Unlimited). This article is an assessment, using the example of playlist services, of some areas where the experience could be better.

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29 September 02005

Stealth P2P research and its limitations

As the major-label record industry seems to be getting increasingly confident about pressuring peer-to-peer (P2P) music services to get into line, there is more open discussion about analysing P2P use as a source of marketing intelligence that can be used to grow sales. But by focusing exclusively on quantitative data obtained by stealth, the industry is still playing with one hand tied behind its back, denying itself the possibility of getting a richer understanding of what the figures really mean in terms of listener behaviour.

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11 September 02005

Re-shaping The Guardian and the failed promise of personalisation

Guardian cover, copyright Guardian Media GroupThe Guardian newspaper is re-designing itself, turning to a format that is midway between tabloid and broadsheet, with a new typeface. Back in 01994, The Guardian produced a projection of how it thought it might look ten years later — as pictured on the left. Here's a comparison between the projection and the reality, in a similar spirit to the reviews of user interface projections I did a couple of years ago (1, 2).

The projected prototype is more or less A4 size (same height, and about 2mm narrower). It's printed on DuPont Tyvek ®, which is water and tear resistant. The web site claims it is "ideal for all printing applications where durability is of prime importance", and certainly my nearly-11-year-old copy shows no sign of wear (though I tried to iron it flat to get a better photo, and it reacted spectacularly but disastrously to the heat). When 'delivered' the paper is folded in two, lengthways — as shown in the picture — so it would fit in an inside jacket pocket, but the pages open out to A4.

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9 September 02005

In-depth music documentary sources

While I was working through all the pages on this site I listened to the last six or seven episodes of The Story of Atlantic on the BBC Radio Player. They were broadcast on 6 Music Plays It Again, and you can still catch some episodes if you're quick.

This was a 14-hour series made by the BBC — presumably before the days of extensive independent production — in 01988. It's a salutary sign of the scope and seriousness of commissioning back then, in the days before the market was flooded with specialist music magazines forever digging up in-depth features on lost Syd Barrett sessions recorded in a sauna in Croydon. Rarely does any music documentary subject get more than one hour-long radio programme these days.

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8 September 02005

New section archives

I've gone through all the 279 entries on this site and classified them according to 14 new 'secondary' categories, which complement the primary categories included as tabs on each page (E-learning, Human-Computer Interaction, Music & Multimedia, Cultural Calendar). And I've changed the home page so that it links to these 'Section Archives' instead of the old month-by-month archives — see the right-hand panel about half-way down.

Navigating this site by date doesn't make a lot of sense, since it's not a diary: it just shows the progression of my ideas, which isn't always forwards! So adding a richer set of classifications has been on my to-do list for the best part of a year. When I started the site I didn't want to pre-empt the sections too much, as I wasn't sure how the coverage was going to evolve. And I'm still going to stick to using at least one of the 'primary' categories for the great majority of entries (except personal and reflexive ones like this).

The new section categories give you the scope to find all the entries on more specific themes and topics that I cover here. Some of them are fairly general like Radio or the Future of Music; others are more tightly focused, like the BBC or Playlists. I've used the Ideas and Essays section to collect together all the more substantial entries, the ones I think are most original, so I'd recommend giving that a look.

If you would find any other section categories useful for navigating the entries here, please let me know and I'll see what I can do.

6 September 02005

'CMALT' launched at learning technology conference

As trailed previously, the CMALT (Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology) accreditation scheme is being launched today at the Association's annual conference. This scheme is a portfolio-based means of recognising the experience and competence of professionals working in technology-based and technology-assisted learning.

Since we developed the scheme last year a second pilot has been run, and work has started on an e-commerce-enabled document workflow system for the submission and review of applications for CMALT status. The latter will come into use next year.

Somewhat inadvertently (and I hope this doesn't sound disingenuous, because I don't think it is), I became one of the first people to achieve CMALT status. As part of our work in developing proposals for the scheme I filled out an example application form, based on my experience. The intention behind this was as illustration and 'proof of concept'. I wasn't at the meeting where it was discussed, so I was surprised to hear later that not only had our proposal for the scheme been accepted by our clients at ALT, but also I had been accepted as a Certified Member. I've now updated my CV (115 KB pdf file) accordingly.

5 September 02005

Growing the market for music as an experience

In his Musicworks keynote presentation last week, Sholto Ramsay argued that the music industry ought to stop thinking of music as a 'product' and more in terms of an experience. The corollary of that, he said, is that music should be priced on the basis of its features (e.g. packaging and other extras), quality (as in audio fidelity) and how people access it (on-demand or via different devices).

Applying a marketing perspective, Sholto spoke in terms of growing the market for the music experiences by addressing search, interaction and transaction costs. Here are some elaborations on what he said on each of these points, spliced with some of my own reflections.

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