Google sends out the cars for Street View SA


At last: Google today announced that it will begin imagery collection in South Africa for the Street View feature in its Google Maps. In the coming weeks Google, using Toyota Prius models, will begin driving around South Africa and taking photographs of locations, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

Street View is a hugely popular feature of Google Maps that is already available in more than 100 metropolitan areas around the world. It allows users to virtually explore and navigate a neighbourhood through panoramic street-level images. It is also available in Google Earth and on Google Maps for Mobile. Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date in Street View on Google Maps for South Africa.

In areas where Street View is available you can access street-level imagery by zooming into the lowest level on Google Maps, or by dragging the orange “Pegman” icon on the left-hand side of the map onto a blue highlighted street. You can check out a restaurant before arriving, make travel plans, arrange meeting points, or get a helping hand with geography homework. Househunters can save time by exploring properties and their surrounding area in advance and also by looking up driving directions.

Businesses can also benefit from the Street View technology by embedding Google Maps directly into their site for free, helping them to promote a chain of hotels or raise awareness about a local library or restaurant.

Toyota’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Andrew Kirby, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Google and supplying our fuel efficient and environmental friendly Prius for this groundbreaking project in South Africa. South Africans and international visitors alike will benefit tremendously from Street View, which is both fun and practical. We hope that people across South Africa’s major cities keep their eyes peeled for the Street View cars, and feel part of a major new initiative.”

Commenting on the initiative, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Tourism said, “The internet is a remarkably rich resource for raising awareness about South Africa – our people, our cities and our environment. Street View is going to make South Africa more accessible both to locals and to international visitors. It will give tourists a taste of the variety that the country offers, and a chance to research their holidays in advance, all with the click of a mouse. Ahead of the World Cup, we’re pleased to have Google bringing us some of their most innovative technology so that we can showcase South Africa to the world.”

Roshene Singh, Chief Marketing Officer at South Africa Tourism added, “Street View is a great tool for exploration and tourism, and a way to highlight South Africa’s urban buzz and scenic beauty. As South Africa gears up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, football fans around the world will either wish they were here, or will be on their way. Street View will help all of our visitors plan their trip, or experience virtually what South Africa has to offer, no matter which team they’re cheering for.”

For more information on Street View and how it can be used for recreational purposes and by businesses please visit

The surprising science of motivation

Fascinating TED talk on what motivates people in companies, challenging traditional notions of management. Very relevant to many online companies who are looking at building new and different cultures.

(via Wendy Robb @ 20fourlabs)

Media? What's that?

There is so much confusion on the future of media, journalism and news — demonstrated with utmost clarity (or lack thereof) here in a Spiegel interview with Chris Anderson, Wired editor and respected author of the Long Tail.

In a fairly grumpy interview, Anderson himself seems to get confused — at first refusing to use the terms, then appearing to concede. I wonder why? Time zone issue? Woken up for the interview at a ridiculous time in the morning? Or is it because dislike of media (mainly traditional media) is all the more vogue these days?

This is how the interview starts:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Anderson, let’s talk about the future of journalism.

Anderson: This is going to be a very annoying interview. I don’t use the word journalism.

SPIEGEL: Okay, how about newspapers? They are in deep trouble both in the United States and worldwide.

Anderson: Sorry, I don’t use the word media. I don’t use the word news. I don’t think that those words mean anything anymore. They defined publishing in the 20th century. Today, they are a barrier. They are standing in our way, like ‘horseless carriage’.

SPIEGEL: Which other words would you use?

Anderson: There are no other words. We’re in one of those strange eras where the words of the last century don’t have meaning. What does news mean to you, when the vast majority of news is created by amateurs? Is news coming from a newspaper, or a news group or a friend? I just cannot come up with a definition for those words. Here at Wired, we stopped using them.

More here…

I think Anderson is right up until a point. And we know the line: Thanks to the levelling effects of the internet the media game is wide open and set for massive fragmentation. It’s easier than ever before for human beings to produce and distribute their own media about the broadest or narrowest of topic. There’ll be audience out there, somewhere online to consume it. In many respects, any company online pushing information is a “media company”. All online companies are media companies… has that eroded or changed the meaning of “media”? Is the concept of a “media company” problematic in this context? Maybe.

But take the words “journalism” and “news” however. I’m not so sure these are outdated terms. Technology has changed the production, distribution and platforms of these disciplines, but at essence the core values stay the same. Everyone and their cellphone or blog or website is a potential reporter or columnist and we have Google to filter — but surely we still need reporters to co-ordinate, filter, contextualise, understand, fact-check, and add a further layer of credibility in the face of waves of digital information.

Bloggers now eligible for major journalism award

Just been informed that bloggers are eligible for the prestigious Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year award.

They’re opening entries to bloggers “in recognition of just how important the blogspace has become in shaping opinion and providing analysis on matters legal…”

Off the top of my head I can think of one candidate in particular, Gill Moodie of Grubstreet, for her coverage of the Mpshe-Zuma judgement. Moodie tenaciously tracked down the Hong Kong judge in question (Justice Conrad Seagroatt) for an exclusive interview, bringing another angle to the unfolding events.

The categories and prizes are:

1) Print and online, including blogs: R50 000
2) Broadcast:TV and Radio: R50 000

(Entries close: 5pm, 9 September 2009)

More info and entry forms here.

Matthew 1, Hackers 0

UPDATE: Here is a good plugin to help you change and manage your wp-admin blog details. Also see this useful blog post “11 Vital Tips and Hacks to Protect Your WordPress Admin Area“.

So my site was hacked. What a frustrating experience. I had to live with that rather melodramatic Google malware message splashed across my blog, making you think that visiting it would result in an axe in your head.

It wasn’t a particularly exciting or dangerous hack. What the hackers did was insert some nasty code which effectively created an iframe, allowing them to generate hidden links on my blog to certain sites. It’s part of a worldwide denial-of-service hack aimed at bringing down major sites, rather than this here little blog or the users that read it. The links were at some point pointing to Yahoo and Bing in the same vein as the denial-of-service hack emanating from Georgia/Russia that hit Twitter this week.

What I did to kill the hack:
1. I checked all my wordpress php pages for foreign code. I’d view source my blog regularly to check for unsolicited iframes. I found two bits of code in my header (about eight lines of fairly hectic PHP starting with “wp_remote_fopen procedure”) and then a second bit of code on my main index page (the illegal iframe, calling up a dodgy site called “web-analizer.****”).

2. After I first removed the hack code, it came back again within 6 hours. I then disabled plugins that I had installed in the last 3 months, I changed and strengthened my blog password, database passwords and ftp passwords. (To one of those long, unpronounceable ones).

3. I let my ISP know, who then ran a virus checker (as a precaution) and generated FTP logs for me so I could see who had been accessing my account. I also changed my FTP permissions to “deny all:all”, which blocked everyone except me. Die hacker, die!

Why I’m disappointed with Google
Instead of contacting me or at least automatically generating an email to me warning me about the hack on my blog and then giving me an opportunity to take action — Google splashed the confusing malware message across the site giving users the impression it would somehow give their computers swine flu. Even Twitter then blacklisted links to my blog, replacing my blog url with “http://[ unsafe link ]”. As a Google Webmaster user, it would have been easy for Google to warn me. When I did submit reconsideration, Google took ages to get back to me and reconsider what is clearly a legitimate site. Hmmmmmm, Google, hmmmmm…

Furious MXIT lashes out at media

MXIT is a world-wide mobile instant messaging tool (now evolving into a social network) with around 15-million users (claimed). It’s based in South Africa but has offices around the world and substantial numbers in countries like the Phillipines.

Every time there is an incident via their platform, journalists with scant understanding of the technology tend to focus on MXIT as the source of the problem, rather than the real issues. Mainstream media, in particular, tend to get it wrong. It’s part of an ongoing problem with journalism and media here, which sees a lack of seniority and too many junior reporters in newsrooms. An offshoot of this is that we don’t see enough specialisation in newsrooms, ie: we see general reporters covering specialist, technical beats requiring in-depth knowledge, in context.

It boils down to a lack of understanding of the environment. Blaming MXIT is akin to calling for a ban on telephones or email, because reprehensible elements of society (eg: pedophiles) happen to use them.

It rather misses the point. It’s a classic case of “shoot the messenger”: the problem isn’t MXIT, which is merely a communication enabler. The issue is education and common sense. The broader problem is society itself, but this, I suspect, is a harder one to solve than educating users.

In a rather long (and angry) press release, which I have shortened for your reading pleasure, MXIT singles out local media for “sensational” and “unprofessional” reporting. I’m inclined to agree:

“MXit is calling on the media to stop misusing its name in what the company believes is a dangerous trend to sensationalise headlines… is concerned about the ongoing misleading and inaccurate use of its name in media reports across all media platforms, including television, print and online. MXit is currently consulting its lawyers to determine whether the most recent example is a breach of the South African Press Code, or indeed if it amounts to defamation.

In the latest example, media reports claim that MXit is responsible for a teenage girl from Johannesburg disappearing for 48 hours after telling her school that she would not be attending classes. Her parents allege that she may have met someone on MXit. The school is considering disciplinary action on the girls return and although the case is being investigated, there is no proof that a conversation with an unknown person on MXit led to the girl’s disappearance…

…MXit is not the problem. We offer a system that allows people to communicate at a fraction of the cost of sending sms or voice calls. Our users send approximately 35 000 messages per second during peak times and the MXit community visits our platform more than 20 million times a day. Even if it does emerge that she accepted a friend request from a stranger, it is not fair to condemn a technology of close to 15 million users for bad choices made by one user,” says Juan du Toit, international marketing manager for MXit…

MXit has an obligation to ensure that its users understand that media reports are not entirely true in this case and has sent a message to its community which reflects the facts…

…We condemn the unprofessional and sensation-seeking journalism displayed by e-TV and The Star newspaper this last week…

…We want to warn all users again to enjoy our technology with the necessary responsibility and level of maturity; and never to reveal personal information. We challenge both media owners to get these simple facts accurate, and to properly understand our technology. Can we trust what is reported?

…MXit has always stressed the importance of education and responsible online behavior in a technological advancing world. In addition to the safety regulations that is constantly reminding its users of, it has also developed a set of guidelines for parents, available on its website:

District 9: Spaceships over Soweto

I, like any normal, rational person, thought that this was a hoax. But it’s not. This is an upcoming movie about aliens landing in Johannesburg by local director Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson. There is obviously a strong metaphorical link to Apartheid and perhaps the recent Xenophobic violence in this country. It also shows that anything is possible if you put your mind to it — yes, even make a Hollywood movie about aliens landing in Soweto:

Below are some promo trailers:

and also:

Here’s a further version if you want more.

Apparently the above Hollywood blockbuster version is based on this short film below:

10 questions for new Google SA head: Stephen Newton

Stephen Newton (Credit FM Tech)
New Google SA Head Stephen Newton (Credit: FM Tech).

Stephen Newton is the country’s new Google head. He’s an American who has been living in the UK. He’s now based in Johannesburg, heading up the local Google office. He studied as a lawyer, has previously been the GM of Hitwise UK, a Vice President at Double Click, and then Google EMEA Head of Analytics & Commerce. Newton describes South Africa as “Africa’s entrepreneurial heart” and is looking at ways of broadening the country’s internet access. He’s a rugby fan, and a nice, down-to-earth guy to have lunch with.

I asked him 10 questions:

1. What’s your mission for South Africa?
My mission for South Africa, is to assist educating South African, businesses, agencies and the general public, on the power of the online environment, and what it has to offer.

2. Tell us one thing we don’t know about you?
I love to watch Rugby

3. How will Google SA be different from the other Google regional offices?
Well first and foremost, it will be in South Africa! (attempt at dry humour) But really, the beauty of Google is that we have a unified culture, but are encouraged to add local flavour/content to the over arching culture.

4. Are you planning to engage government? If so, at what level?
I am unable to comment on this right now.

5. Do you foresee Google SA becoming more than a sales shop, but a local innovator here too?
Watch this space

6. CPM or CPC?
Both, there is a place in advertising for an immediate call to action as well as brand building.

7. Why is online CPM display/banner advertising not bringing in the big bucks?
I can’t say that I agree with this statement. I would feel more comfortable saying that many are not equipped to properly measure CPM results. There are some very interesting attribution and exposure to conversion studies and models that show the value and ROI of banner advertising.

8. Badda Bing?
Awesome, with innovation and competition, everyone has to try harder. Any product, platform that gets more people engaged with the Internet benefits the entire industry.

9. Tell me one thing you have in common with South Africa?
Like the people of South Africa, I too am from a country that has undergone a dramatic change in a relatively short period of time. Although I respect how you have seemed to do it so quickly. Incredible.

10. What difference can Google make in the lives of South Africans, when 90% of the country doesn’t have access to the Internet?
We can help to assist in those innovative proposals that are aimed at giving the 90% access. We have already begun talks with some of the principals behind such proposals. Also, we can assist by demystifying the web, and getting more people engaged with the online platform. As businesses realise the power and potential reach of the online platform, they too will research and support equal access initiatives.

Stylin' through the mother city with Audi

Big up to Joe Botha and Chris Rawlinson (aka I did an “advanced” driving course) for putting this fun shindig together. The idea was to drive a variety of Audis (a Q5, A4, A6, TT, R8 to be precise) across beautiful Cape Town, with a social media twist. It was to be tweeted, blogged, Facebooked, Flickred and whatevered. Swapping cars along the way, we started off at Audi Centre Cape Town in the city centre, then to Constantia Village, and then to Noordhoek where we met up with former Springbok Bob Skinstad at The Toad (his bar), back through Hout Bay, Llandudno, ending at Mouille point. I believe this may happen again. And I certainly recommend it!

The fact that there were fast, shiny cars had nothing to do with my participation: I was interested in being part of a social media junket using non-traditional methods to advertise and PR themselves. Ok, I lie — it was a bit of both. For me this is a great example of a company opening its doors to new methods of marketing, rather than just going the traditional advertising route. Will be interesting to gauge the return on investment.

Pics of the day below (excuse the quality, was on my iPhone):

HTC confirms August Android Market launch in SA

As predicted by Ron Bach on the 20FourLabs blog, the Android market will soon be launched here.

Leaf International Communications, the distributor of HTC in South Africa has confirmed the Android Market, Google’s mobile application directory, will be available to South African users from August 2009.

“HTC was the first to launch Android-based handsets in South Africa during May 2009,” says Stephen Strachan, marketing director at Leaf. “At the time, the Android Market was unavailable to local users and, while we have developed a local application portal, it is great that consumer demand has resulted in Google allowing local users to access this popular global portal. Leaf, together with HTC is exceptionally proud to bring the Android market to the South African consumer”.

For the first time, HTC Magic and HTC Dream handset owners have access to literally thousands of free and paid-for applications. They can download a complete spectrum of apps, ranging from functional downloads to those designed purely for fun. The assortment is limitless and consumers can choose between a variety of gaming applications, business & social networking tools and a multitude of other exciting content for download direct to their HTC Android handsets.

From applications that identify & name the star constellations, to ones that tell you how to mix your favorite cocktails, to those that turn your phones into a light saber – the list goes on and on, but one thing you can be sure of, is that you can make your handset is as unique as you are.

The new HTC Android phones and complimentary Android Market will inject fresh life into the S.A. mobile market. Leaf and HTC are excited about being a catalyst in, what could be termed, the next evolution within the S.A. mobile industry.

What is an Android operating system?
It is an open source operating system, designed to optimise freedom within the mobile environment. It allows developers across the globe to write mobile applications for Android-based handsets. The Android platform was specifically designed around the Google experience and will continue to evolve as the developer community works together to build mobile applications.

What is the Android market?
An open source operating system requires a complimentary market to be fully operational and to be able to offer its real benefits. The Android market, true to the definition, is a place where developers and users are able to buy, sell and trade applications. This community is totally free and users and developers are able to liaise directly with each other.

You can't wrap fish & chips in pixels

This is the second Prezi presentation I’ve done, first introduced to me by Phil Barrett of Flow Interactive via a post on Life Hacker. This one was for Th!nkFest at the National Arts Festival. I owe the title (or is it that I owe him one?) to Tony Lankester, the Festival CEO. It’s a look at the future of media, with an Eastern Cape twist. It also delves into the world of augmented reality: the internet as a data layer over reality.

(There are quite a few image that need downloading. I’d start the presentation, then wait a while before you go through it. A fast connection is optimal. Navigate using arrows on bottom right).

Web development: The great convergence myth

I’ve always learnt that converged systems are the best way to go. In theory they are: An integrated site should ultimately allow you to do more with your site’s content and resources.

It should save you time because you are not going backwards and forwards trying to get one Content Management System (CMS)* to speak to another or one paradigm to work within another. There should be a cost saving, because you’re now working with one system, not eight.

Well that’s the theory. The reality is that it doesn’t work like that. Not even close. The ideal vision of a converged CMS and website operation is idealist bunkum.

In reality, it works differently. Many expanding online businesses face questions of whether to build their own or outsource to other platforms. Depending on the size and focus of the business, an online publishing operation’s core system should probably be inhouse. Then, from a business point of view, the better call is to “outsource” your blog system to a specialist blog provider or your social systems to a social networking service. If you need e-commerce, jobs or classifieds platforms, you wouldn’t build your own either (unless you were a specialist provider planning something innovative).

It also depends on the size and type of your operation too. Smaller to mid-sized operations are more likely to outsource. Larger organisations would either build their own at the start or outsource at the beginning as a proof-of-concept. It may depend on how core the outsource function is to your operation too. There are some features where building your own never makes sense. An example of this is blogs. Why go to the effort and expense of building your own blog system, when there is something out there better than you could ever dream of building? (It also depends on whether you are going to be a blog service provider or just use the platform to blog. The former may push you to do your own).

What this means is management of your website will eventually become a patchwork of CMSes and separate systems. The trade-off is that your outsourced systems won’t be as integrated with your core system as you may like, but you’ve won on three fronts: time, cost and cool functionality from a specialist system.

Your tech guy may hate it, because from his point of view it’s inefficient — and a converged system is a complex thing of beauty allowing him to fulfill his role of the tech god you can’t live without.

But it isn’t solely about the tech. It’s about the business and community you build around your site. You make a trade-off: build my own at cost and time vs use another specialist platform at probably a tenth of the time and cost.

Cross platform sites bother me less and less these days. This is the era of RSS and APIs — advanced integration between disparate systems can be achieved fairly robustly without them needing to be part of the same system.

For many media operations the same applies for the different systems managing their websites and traditional media products, such as their newspaper or magazine. The theory goes that you should try converge your web and print systems. For an often-meagre gain, this integration comes at much expense and time. Personally, I’d rather shoot for achieving basic integration on a RSS and API level and keep the systems separate. (This is another post all on its own).

And if it really bugs you, the issue of multiple systems and CMSes can be mitigated by centralising them on a single page, allowing a level of auto-authentication for your staff. If uniformity is a need, you could address this on the front-end by tweaking the look & feel. You could even have a centralised bar across your CMSes, bringing them together on a usability level.

My advice: If it makes sense, outsource it. Convergence is utterly overrated.

* Can we stop calling these “Content Management Systems”. They should do more than manage content, but manage your business. Prefer “Business Management Systems”.

A collection of quality articles on the future of journalism and media

Some good reads on the future of journalism and media:

News Flash From the Future: What Will Journalism Look Like?

Can Computer Nerds Save Journalism?

The State of the Media: Not Good

Don’t Let Yellow Press Standards Define the Future of Journalism

The way we’ll work

How to save your newspaper

How Social Media is Radically Changing the Newsroom

Journalism 2.0

Get Off the Bus

The Future of Journalism

Pictures from the National Arts Festival

The Village Green is the heartbeat of the National Arts Festival. This year it was moved from its traditional headquarters at Fiddler’s Green to the Rhodes University Sports field.

Here are some pics:

More pics here.


Yet more responsive advertising by Nandos (the chicken people). This one picking up on the USA’s 3-2 loss to Brazil in the Fifa Confederations Cup. Nandos must have one of the most responsive marketing departments around. It churns these clever little ads out quickly.

Fifa World Cup: Building Greenpoint stadium

About nine months ago I did a tour of Greenpoint Stadium, which will be hosting one of the semi-finals for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Now, about 9 months later, I toured the stadium again with Chris Rawlinson and Gabby Rosario, thanks to a competition on Twitter.

And, judging by the pics, there is progress. The new Greenpoint Stadium has a seating capacity of about 70 000 (just 20 000 more than Newlands). The pitch is apparently growing somewhere “top secret” in Stellenbosch, nearby. It’s employed about 2 300 people for the construction phase (with one death). It’s a R3-billion project.

See pictures below (and also compare to when I last toured it):

More pics here.

Nandos strikes with Confed Cup viral campaign

It’s so rare that Bafana Bafana win, so when they do we revel in it. For some inexplicable reason, we also particularly revel in beating Australia and New Zealand (at pretty much everything or anything). Enter Nandos with this clever viral marketing campaign:

Twitter, journalism and Iran

Some questions I answered for a newspaper article on journalism and social media, specifically with regard to the Iran uprisings and the use of twitter:

1. Twitter is being used quite extensively at the moment in Iran. Could this be regarded as some kind of turning point for social media?

I wouldn’t call it a turning point. It’s part of an ongoing trend that sees technology and the internet making media and broadcasting more accessible to people on the ground. The internet allows ordinary people to tell their stories through their own media via their blog, their Twitter or Facebook accounts, using their mobile phones or computers. This often happens in partnership with journalists in traditional media. This goes back to the blogger Salam Pax writing about the 2003 Iraq invasion or the 2004 Tsunami crisis which was documented by eyewitnesses, blogging and sending pictures of the crisis via their cellphones. So it’s part of a broader phenomenon of technology progression that has made the production and distribution of media faster and more accessible.

2. Can you comment on the way Twitter has evolved from a tool used to tell others what you are doing, to something that makes an impact on the actual breaking news platforms?

The key thing about Twitter is that it’s real-time. Real-time may be me brushing my teeth or participating in a revolution. It’s a powerful way to get your ideas and messages across instantaneously to a large amount of people.

3. What are the dangers in relying on Twitter for news?

There’s always a danger that context and accuracy gets lost in the 140 character limit of Twitter. Also, because it’s real-time, you haven’t had the time to verify. But that does not devalue Twitter in any way. Users must make a judgement call and view with a critical eye, asking questions like how credible is the source of the Tweet? How many others are tweeting that same information? Are others concurring on other social media platforms, blogs or news sites? Like all news, even that in a newspaper, readers should decode and approach with a critical eye.

4. Will Twitter or any other social networking tools be able to take the place of traditional media, or should they always be used as complementary tools?

These days traditional media plays in the social media space, and citizen media plays in the traditional media space. They’re complementary content types. A trained journalist is a useful filter, providing analysis, experience and balance to a report. But they can’t be everywhere at once, so can rely on the vast army of “citizen reporters” out there to augment their reports or tip them off on stories. Both forms work well together to enhance reportage.

5. Do you perhaps have any statistics on how many Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other users there are?

According to Alexa, Twitter is the world’s 28th biggest site. You Tube is the world’s third biggest site after Google and Yahoo. Facebook comes in at number 4 and has over 200-million users. If Facebook were a country it would be the fifth biggest in the world after Brazil. Not bad going.

6. Why do people use these networking sites?

To communicate and connect with others, socially and for business. Business is about forming networks. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, help you create those networks and communicate to those networks.

7. Do you agree that Barack Obama won his campaign thanks to his visibility on social networking sites?

I think that was one of the reasons. There were also other reasons such as the Obama campaign creating their own social network, There was also that small matter of a financial meltdown and the most unpopular US president ever that helped Obama get to the White House.

8. How important will these social networking tools become/are already for politicians, business people etc who want to get a message across?

Big business and politicians already have the resources and infrastructure to broadcast to mass audiences, and can do it fairly quickly. The key thing about social media sites is that they have empowered individuals to broadcast to big audiences and networks. It’s empowered individuals to create their own networks and spheres of influence in a bigger, more substantial way. Business and politicians also play in this sphere because its a way of penetrating these networks and a cost-effective way of communicating.

The future of media and other questions

Answered some questions for an article recently. Thought I’d publish them here too:

What do you think the future of news organizations will look like?

For mid-sized to large news organisations, I doubt there will be any specialist text or broadcast media companies left. Most media companies will be full, quality, multimedia operations. This will intensify as the cost and knowledge barriers fall even further.

News organisations will be publishing on multiple devices. In most countries, mobile news sites will overtake their sister “traditional” desktop websites in terms of traffic, although not necessarily revenue. In the future, most digital devices will be connected to the net and be networked — so would be targets for online media organisations’ content.

News organisations have natural networks that are their community of readers. But they will start to formalise and capture that network by creating user profiles and allowing more personalisation of content.

Bigger media organisations will also look at owning their own branded digital devices as a way of ensuring their content appears on those devices. In fact, I could see a time where media companies may give away or subsidise these devices — and the business model would be that the user pays a subscription for content and services on these devices.

Media is seeing competition like never before: from non-traditional media companies and from their own readers. If you think about it, pretty much all companies on the net are de facto media companies — some more advanced than others.

What is your business model for your news organization?

In many respects many online news operations are constrained by legacy. For example, it could be argued that the current display online advertising model is not appropriate for the net, as it’s merely a model “touched up” and imported from traditional media. More innovation is needed here. Currently we make the bulk of our revenues via online advertising, but more revenue streams are needed.

How much investment are you putting into your web site? What new technology or software are you using or looking at that will help monetize your web site.

Currently we’ve invested in a new R&D division called 20FourLabs. It’s aim is to build online applications and widgets for mobile and the desktop web. These are applications that are service based, have a social angle or rely on user generated content, as opposed to publishing per se.

What other streams of revenue are you considering for your news organization? Would this new revenue stream include using any form of technology or software such as OpenCalais?

I believe big sites could target their advertising more accurately based on contextual tagging of articles. It’s quite complex to set this up, but I believe there is a business model here.

Technology gurus believe the Semantic Web is the next generation of aggregation for the online publishing. This new form of aggregation will allow web sites a greater opportunity to monetize their web sites and provide their readers with greater information. What role will this new form of aggregation play in strengthening your bottom line?

Aggregation is a key area as the sheer volume of information grows on the web. We as users will need help in organising, featuring and finding that information. Semantic tagging services like Calais do a great job in helping to organise and categorise content for us. They make computers do the work, as opposed to us, the information-overloaded humans.

What role does social media – Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, etc. – play in your web site or mobile development?

These are online applications that have revolutionised sharing and social interaction on the web. We’re building aggregators for twitter but also social networking applications that work closely with these sites. Twitter is the presently the best real-time source of information. If you want to find out what’s happening right now, this second there’s only one place to go on the net…

What innovative things are you doing to drive traffic to your web site?

We’re building a social network around our content offering, targeting the comments area of our site where most of the user interaction, debate and networking occurs. The Social Network will include ability to aggregate from users’ social networks, mine your contacts, and create hubs of interest and activities.

When you don't want to be a fly on the wall

This is funny. Barack Obama, taking out a fly.