Friday, December 24, 2004

Review of 2004

The year is drawing in and all through the land(s) bloggers are typing misty-eyed reviews of 2004. Despite the temptation to Google everyone else's thoughts and get stuck into the mince pies early, I will add my take on the significant developments of the year when many former winks in the milkman's eye really hit the public consciousness:

- Google's flotation: the big headline behind the story that new media is back from the dot com crash. It also saw Google the verb (see usage above) being used in the mainstream, along with its many other variations: 'Googling', 'Googlewhack' and 'just popping down the pub for a Google, dear'.

- Me, me, me media: when you saw your Luddite friends getting to grips with 3G, Sky Plus, IPod, Tivo, Blackberry's, Desktop Search, RSS, and the rest. What you want, when you want it and on what device you want it.

- Mass media broadband: when broadband in the UK finally became affordable.

- Email wars: Gmail hit the headlines with its 1G storage, sparking an almighty dust up for customers among the big players, with Lycos, Hotmail, AOL all indulged in a free-for-all.

- Blog, blog, blog: when colleagues started writing them, clients starting asking about them and people actually started reading them

- Blood boiling: yes, the year that my boiler decided to pack in on Christmas Eve. Do you know how difficult it is to get a plumber out at this time of year?

Given that it is the season both of giving and receiving, in true 2004 style I invite you to Google your predictions for 2005.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Return to haunt sender

This week saw an old email emerge as the final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, revealing his curious phrase "No favours, but slightly quicker" in the nanny-visa-gate affair.

For all the talk of the anonymity of the Internet, the reality is that with the ability to record each website visited, file downloaded, comment published, email sent and to search 8 billion webpages on Google (and the rest), the potential for your Internet history to return to haunt you is all too real.

This blog featured the sorry tale of former air hostess Queen of the Sky who was reportedly brought back to earth for featuring inappropriate pictures of herself in her employers' uniform on her blog.

Blogging and email have empowered people to transmit their thoughts in seconds, but this carries with it all the dangers in terms of lack of reflection and hot-headedness. Add to that the potential for cultural misunderstandings inherent in a global audience and you'll wish you'd taken daddy's advice and signed up to law school after all.

No wonder then that so many companies' email signatures feature the obligatory 'don't blame us' legal warning - a particularly well written one I received this week featured the immortal line: "These are the views of the sender unless you like them a lot - then they are the Company's!"

Perhaps I should add a postscript: This blog contains the views of my virtual alter ego, unless you like them a lot - then they are mine!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Sorry, you were saying?

Apologies to those communicative souls that placed comments on the site up until today (apart from that weirdo forum that kept spamming the site. Yes, you). It seems you can't make an omelette without breaking any eggs and all of those wonderful posts have been consigned to cyber-history.

The culprit is progress. Blogger doesn't yet have 'Trackback' as a function, but it is possible to enable this functionality through Haloscan. Unfortunately, when you enable their handy auto-installer, it deletes all of the previous Blogger-powered comments.

Hopefully, the change will be worthwhile as, true to the blogging principle that 'no blog should be an island', Trackback is a great way of viewing debates in the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

"Your designers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Whether or not you appreciate the Jurassic Park reference, the web is awash with sites that "didn't stop to think if they should." I'm not talking here about the sites that suffer through lack of design or programming skills. Ignorance or incompetence are an excuse in this rant.

No, instead I'm talking about site designers that do have these skills in abundance. It's just that through a desire to showcase their skills (usually in prime offender, Flash) they commit creative hari-kari and render their sites totally unusable. The web is still a relatively new medium, yet there are still basic conventions that you should follow that don't have to compromise your creativity.

I'm talking about sites that try to reinvent the navigation wheel with floating menus, one-off scrolling bars, unintentionally-hidden links and, of course, those overly complicated intro movies.

The worst offenders are often web design agencies themselves who may or may not do great work for clients, but can't resist one creative flourish too many when it comes to their own sites. Take for example, these guys - I defy you to navigate their website without throwing something at the screen.

Any candidates you'd like to see savaged by a virtual T-Rex? Let's hear about them in the comments section.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Please tell me this is a spoof

I'm hoping this website design awards site is trying to be ironic...
Google toolbar PageRank bar, where are you?

The Google toolbar features a handy PageRank bar which lets you know the PageRank of any page that you are viewing. There has been some debate recently about just how accurate the figures are with claims that the total shown is often months out-of-date or just plain wrong.

My own experience of using the calculator is that the figures it shows are reasonably accurate and are logical. Thus, Google-owned Blogger.com's homepage has a PageRank of 10, new pages show 0 and those in-between generally conform to my understanding of how influential a site is. I find it a helpful tool when reviewing longer term (note: longer) progress on sites that I have been working on.

However, today the PageRank bar vanished from my Google toolbar without explanation. This may be a temporary blip while it gets it's annual springclean. A quick search of the SEO forums show that some have it, some don't, and some see a universal grey or 0 Page Rank for every site they visit, so it looks more like a blip than the end for one of my favourite pieces of internet trivia.

Let me know if you've experienced this in the comment section.

Updated: It was just a springclean (if you're in the southern hemisphere of course) with regards to my PC. After a well deserved break, the toolbar decided to reset itself to US Google and switch off its PageRank bar option.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Chance to end your online identity crisis

Those in the UK that joined the internet revolution later than others (or those with particularly common names) have had to suffer the indignity of a split identity online. The thousands of john2365's out there are getting another opportunity to be referred to by their real name (provided they still remember it) with news that Hotmail.co.uk is being launched.

Whether the benefit of having a decent email address will outweigh the pain of telling all your contacts that you have changed email address is another question. No doubt the common names will be snapped up by those enterprising souls hoping to sell them straight back on Ebay, small print permitting or ignored (Hotmail are themselves auctioning off the most common for charity).

Those readers with an eye on future trends may well wonder whether they should even be bothering with email given news from tech-obsessed South Korea that email is for old people. In a survey, over two thirds of students rarely or never use email, prefering the more informal texting or instant messaging as the way to communicate. No doubt this is the same old story of when your Dad has something, it's just not cool anymore...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Where there's a will, there's a way (to advertise)

Those loyal readers that subscribe to this blog via an RSS feed or equivalent have been missing out. The longer term subscribers probably won't even know that the mother site now has a neat row of grey text ads decorating the top of the site.

The RSS-tinted world (explanation of RSS here, if you're interested) is reminiscent of the ad-free early internet, with just fresh content picked up by the feeds.

Just as you can't escape death and taxes, it was only a matter of time before the loophole got plugged. This week saw news that Overture is working with Feedburner to place its contextual ads into their feeds. This move will surely be widely copied as both publishers and the software providers fight for their share of the valuable advertising pie that pays at least some of the bills.

Monday, November 22, 2004

You've got spam

Spare a thought for Microsoft supremo, Bill Gates, who is the most spammed person on earth, according to his colleague Steve Ballmer. He receives an inbox-busting four million emails daily, the vast majority of which are spam.

Given Gates' bank balance, it looks like those 'make money online' emails really do work after all.

(Can you beat Bill's total? Leave your details below.)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Close the Windows, I have a nasty cold

Kevin Warwick, cybernetics Professor at Reading University (non-UK readers: it's not really a university for illiterates), has clearly not being watching his fair share of science fiction movies. Ignoring the clear warnings from the silver screen from War Games to endless Terminator sequels, he has taken the first steps towards becoming a cyborg by wiring up his arm to a computer to operate a mechanical arm - surely an irresistable opportunity for a hacker to wreak havoc.

He believes that in the future the vast potential of networked brains will render other humans obsolete, proving the old adage that two heads are better than one. As ever, the threat of viruses looms large, with a warning that software and biological viruses could become one and the same in his cyborg-tinted world. If you think Windows paperclip is annoying already, just wait until it starts sneezing all over your document every couple of minutes...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Air hostess 'Delta' blow

The internet has done many things for free speech, but it also brings it's own risks. Blogging software has enabled millions to overcome the early internet barriers of lack of technical knowledge to publish their thoughts to the world in seconds. Never in the field of human communication, can so much (or so little) be said by so many to so many (as Churchill would have said, had he lived well into his hundreds).

However, as awaress and readership of blogging has grown, so has the ability of what you blog to get you into trouble. For example, witness Queen of the Sky's sorry tale, with her new strapline as revealing as the photos she bravely displayed - Diary of a (Fired) Flight Attendant. Despite no employer being mentioned in her sometimes racy posts, her downfall was allegedly caused by the posting a photograph of her in a Delta uniform, revealing the company and probably a little too much leg.

Her suspension and recent sacking has become an internet cause celebre and poses interesting questions about the level to which companies should look to control and police bloggers.

The power of anyone from disgruntled former employees to the chairman's wife to reveal or leak, intentionally or not, potentially damaging information about their employer is a real concern for those that try to maintain a company's brand. The ability to handle a company's objections to rogue, or otherwise, bloggers is one that requires a great deal of sensitivity. No news spreads like bad news on the internet and the perception of heavy-handedness only perpetuates the legend.

As the medium continues to evolve into the mainstream, we will start to see more and more internal memos and contract clauses relating to what you can and can't say in the company's name or as one of its employees. Don't expect employee blogging to go away, as there are so many positive applications of the technology for companies, just expect to see the lawyers kept busy with some landmark cases, including perhaps our Queen of the Sky.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The battle for the desktop (literally)

They say the desktop is the next frontier in the battle for control of your PC, but this is getting ridiculous...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Mazda saga - who are you trying to blog?

The fall-out from Mazda's alleged attempts to hoodwink the internet public through an 'independent' blog continues. Mediapost provides a good summary of the unfortunate saga that ably demonstrates that while all publicity may be good publicity, when it comes to the internet, bad news travels much faster than bad.

The irony is that the content itself was largely harmless, consisting of the 'discovery' and posting of a few pretty average car ads, but it was the supposed duplicity that became the real story.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Strange, but true

One of the weirder virals to wing its way across the offices:

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.

Your foot will change direction and there's nothing you can do about it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Which came first - the Mac or the iPod?

In an interesting piece of circular marketing, this blog was amused to see a recent advert for the iMac G5: 'From the creators of the iPod. The new iMac G5'.

No doubt we'll soon see those Harry Potter films turned into books...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Blinkx and you'll miss it

Much-hyped desktop search tool Blinkx's meteoric rise as the next big thing in search is under threat as soon as it has begun to reach the public consciousness. Blinkx, which boasts 1m unique users since its July launch, was famously revealed to the world through a humble blog posting, which was followed by excited columns in the print press, which helped to propel its legend.

However, its charmed life is about to get more difficult as Google gets in on the act by launching a beta version of its own desktop search tool - Google Desktop Search. A look into my crystal ball reveals further clouds in the form of AOL and Microsoft entering into the fray.

The question is, can Blinkx survive in such a fiercely competitive arena and will its cult status prove strong enough to keep it front of mind in the face of superiour resources? Google's rise is proof that with a great idea the little guys can take over the world, but can it be done in the field of search? Surely not again.

Friday, October 15, 2004

'There, he moved!' Viral marketing is no Dead Parrot

I was recently asked to comment on the health of viral marketing for a magazine interview. I'm including below some of the questions and answers:

Q: Are people becoming immune to viral marketing?
A: It’s certainly the case that this is an increasingly popular tactic for brands and it is harder to achieve cut-through than it used to be, but viral marketing is still relatively new and well short of the saturation levels of mainstream advertising.

Virals are often a popular form of office entertainment and as long as the quality of the creative is high there is always the potential to achieve high user numbers at a relatively cheap cost thanks to distribution potential of the Internet.

Q: What is the dividing line between mainstream and viral advertising?
A: It’s a good question, as increasingly traditional advertising and PR agencies get involved in virals as part of an integrated campaign. Reebok’s Terry Tate and the John West Salmon ads showed that mainstream advertising can be ‘viral’ in the sense of people passing what is essentially a TV-style advert to their peers, although this is not the norm.

Increasingly major brands are using this form of Internet communications for offshoots of existing campaigns that allow for riskier or pre-release adverts. However, creative is by no means limited to traditional video content, with many potential applications and opportunities to use the unique interactivity of the Internet, such as games, micro-sites and quizzes and it is here that it divides from mainstream advertising.

Friday, September 24, 2004

So that's where all the IPO cash is going

Not content with its parasitical relationship to the browser through the Google toolbar, it seems that Google may be putting all of that lovely IPO cash to good use in taking on a serious challenge. Google is rumoured to be planning a rival browser to Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer.

Google has been steadily expanding its list of services from blogging (Blogger), to email (Gmail), to e-commerce (Froogle) and is in increasing competition with Microsoft, who have of course invested serious amounts in their revamped search capability.

Microsoft have shown that they know how to deal with browser competition in seeing off Netscape and it will be fascinating to see how this story develops in the coming months.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

My covergirl 'Elle'

Today this blog got in touch with it's feminine side and achieved every girl's dream by appearing on the front page of ELLE magazine. Before you all go rushing out to the newstands to see the man behind the blog, this is a co-branding that ELLE and HP have done to establish their credentials in the consumer lifestyle market, HP's I take it.

I'd have loved to provide loyal readers with a link to my covergirl moment but you can only print them out, so you'll just have to make your own.

Could this be the new vanity publishing (erm, apart from blogging, that is)?
Just how DO you follow a dancing chicken?

Burger King have tried to address the difficult question of how you follow up one of the weirdest and more original (OK, it's a spoof, but all the same...) viral campaigns in Subservient Chicken with a new spoof.

The Angus Diet is fronted no less a luminary than comedian Harry Enfield in good form as a self-help guru that clearly needs some help of his own.

It's a more mainstream offering than the dancing chicken and no doubt the use of the big star is a sign of increased confidence in the medium as a way of targeting those difficult-to-reach yoof customers.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Looking for Google, perhaps?

Despite plenty of posts about Google in recent times, this blog was somewhat suprised when investigating a recent surge of traffic to find out that many readers arrived after a search for 'Google dot com'.

A quick check of the logs revealed that this blog is number 3 on MSN UK (among others) for 'Google dot com' which explains the traffic. Although this blog is powered by Google-owned blogger, you may well be after this Google dot com.

Contrary to rumours, I'm not planning to float the blog just yet, but any potential investors should just send cash for now (unmarked notes in brown paper bags please).

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Joy of txt never dies

The days of deleting romantic/angry txts from your loved ones (past or present) could be in the past with news of a service from Nokia, called Lifeblog, that will archive and organise messages sent to/from your mobile. The messages can even be uploaded to PCs for storage on the web, just to prove that people really will put anything on the web.

Aside from the question of whether the humble txt is worth preserving for eternity, this is part of the growing blogging trend of recording every detail of our short lives using the power of the technology.

No doubt Max Clifford is preparing a Rebecca Loos(e) 'My Becks Txt hell' microsite as I type.


Friday, August 20, 2004

One, twice, three times a blogger

Blogging thought of the day: Tony Benn made the famous remark that keeping a journal means that you experience life three times. Once when you live it, once when you write it down, once when you re-read it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

OK, OK, I'm changing the design

After getting some less than complimentary comments about the design of the blog, I was shamed into a redesign.

One of the more perceptive comments was:
"I notice you used the first template option on Blogger"

I now look forward to more constructive/destructive criticism as readers try to understand quite what blue leaves have to do with a blog on internet communications (in fact, I'd welcome any explanations myself).

Friday, August 13, 2004

Google goes Oogle: founders in shock Playboy appearance

A headline worthy of the Sunday Sport (international readers: it's like a newspaper but without the news). The reality behind it is not quite as exciting as it suggests, with news this week that the Google founders have been caught with their pants down (metaphorically, of course) by giving an interview to the magazine. Apparently, this may violate rules that company leaders should maintain 'a quiet period' pre-IPO (no, I didn't know that either. Oh, you did?).

Legal experts were reportedly going over the magazine with a fine tooth comb for any further evidence of questionable material.

Send your own Playboy-related gags, here, and I'll publish the best (and worst).

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

If you can't scroll down properly to see all of July's posts, bear in mind that Blogger owner Google (who power this blog) had a pretty rough day yesterday when the search engine got hit my My Doom, so hopefully all will be back to normal soon...

Friday, July 16, 2004

Beckham balls up on E-bay

Much to everyone's surprise, it appears that Beckham's infamous vertical penalty in Euro 2004 DID actually land in the stadium and is not currently part of the UK's next Mars mission. The Spaniard that caught the ball, concealed it under his shirt in a seemingly convincing pregnancy impression, has decided to auction it on E-bay.

True to form, there's yet another cock-up as pranksters have placed false bids up to 10 million Euros, meaning embarrassment for E-bay as they try to authenticate the actual bid, with a climbdown to a 23,650 Euros top bid.

Rumours that the top bidder is Alex Ferguson looking to fill a few gaps in the trophy cabinet have not been confirmed...

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Putting a stop to the Gmail "gold" rush

This blog has been following efforts to make a quick buck by selling off beta Gmail accounts. From the initial boom days of $30 listings on Ebay, through to the sorry $1-3 sales of recent times, this blog has resolutely held onto its Gmail account. And now the chance of a quick buck (literally, a buck) is gone with Google attempting to put a stop to the practice by putting a ban on users selling email address.

It has changed the terms of the membership policy to put the clamps on selling, trading or transferring the free email accounts "for any unauthorised commercial purpose", although selling Gmail invitations are still fair game for now.

Given what's happened with the bid price, the chances are that market forces will soon put an end to it in any case with dwindling prices, competitor offerings and the actual launch of the full service.

Nice as it may be for kudos to have billgates@gmail.com, I can't see people forking out as they might for their precious brand-name domains.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Spam will find a way

As a blogspot blogger, I received an invitation to join the beta test for Google's G-mail service. I haven't been using it yet, having decided to hold out for hotmail's reaction, and have only logged in twice. I've not sent a single email, let a single person know about the address or even posted the email address, but, sure enough, spam has found a way.

In logging in this morning, I was greeted by something about 'Best of the best' which came through as source html and someone angling for a Gmail invitation from my new best friend Herb Green (who's clearly been smoking some).

For all the hype of the new product launch, you just can't escape good old spam.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Watch your back, Google, Bill is on your case

MSN has released it's new-look search facility to take on the Google phenomenon - and, guess what, it looks just like Google! The new minimalist clean white design, boxed ads at the top and text ad boxes down the right-hand side are all eerily familiar, and with MSN's heavy investment in search technology, the battle is on for search supremacy.

That much talked about Google float may come sooner rather than later and provide valuable funds to keep Google at the top as when Bill puts his mind to something not much stands in his way (isn't that right Netscape?).

Friday, June 25, 2004

Hotmail wades in guns blazing

It seems Bill Gates is another famous reader of this blog, as following on from the previous post, Hotmail has joined the extra storage slug-fest.

After my (and several million others', to be fair) gripes about having to constantly clean out emails, Hotmail is now offering a competitive 250mb of storage for users of the basic free service with a Gmail-busting (in all but price...) 2GB for users of the $20 a year service.

However, despite the news, there's no sign of action yet on my humble hotmail account which remains a sorry 2 meg...

Sort it out for me, will you, Bill.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Gloves are off in fight for email customers

Yahoo is taking on Google's Gmail head on with the launch of a double-your-storage 2 GB offer (but only for paying subscribers of their US ISP). From a position where free email providers were trying to monetise their services by limiting storage and charging for extra, Gmail's offer of free 1 GB storage has forced a major rethink.

Even beyond the big players, Aventure is offering a similarly storage-busting 2 GB, as a winner-takes-all mentality is starting to come into play.

It should be interesting to see how MSN responds or whether they are hoping that the millions of pioneering hotmail users will stick with their email addresses after all these years. I have both a hotmail and a gmail account and while it is still a pain having to constantly delete emails to keep it under the 2 meg storage level, it would be even more of a pain to change my email address. That said, if they started to charge for the hotmail service, the decision would be easy and GB storage here I come.

Note: In an earlier post, I talked about "Gmail account up for sale on e-bay" where the bidding was around the $20-30 mark, I note it's now around the $2-3 mark as supply and competitor offerings are starting to flood the market.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Usability - as easy as A-B-D

In the interests of research, I took part in an online usability study today for a major UK news site. Usability is increasingly tagged-on as a 'oh, yes, we do that' service, but the number of true experts is still relatively few. It's an accessible subject as so much of what it teaches is common sense. Indeed, after a quick read of Jacob Nielsen's Alertbox, many feel they 'get it', but there is much, much more to learn before you can become an objective expert in what is far too often a subjective field.

All the more interesting, then, to actually 'do usability' and participate in the study. It involved sitting in front of a camera, talking into the microphone and recording your screen as I completed a number of tasks. The tasks involved basic ones, such as navigating to the 'World News, section, navigating back to the homepage, to more in-depth tasks, such as finding an article on surfing by columnist 'x' without using search.

Given how well known the site was, the series of tasks showed how easy it is to let common sense pass you by in website design as a website evolves. The best example was 'find help' where you had to find a mysteriously-named 'information' section first up, before reaching the 'help' section buried beneath. Common sense, you'd say, but as sites grow organically, it's very difficult for the people that build them to take a step back and put themselves in the user's shoes, as the real headache of managing all that content becomes apparent.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Broadband pricing goes mobile

The race for your broadband access has never been more competitive with a wealth of new low(-ish) priced offers from the major providers. From the bad old days of £50 a month access, prices are now starting around the £17-20 mark. All very positive you might think, until you check the details of the bargain basement prices.

Apeing the confusing pricing of mobile phones where the plethora of peak/off-peak, mobile-to-mobile and monthly tariffs are surely designed to confuse the unwary, broadband prices is now all about maximum download/upload levels, variable speeds and extra charges for installation/modems. This doesn't bode well in turning the whole UK broadband as such fog-like pricing structures leave consumers confused and cynical.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Breaking out in Coldplay sweats

Allegedly publicity-shy Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's recent fatherhood of baby Apple has clearly re-wired his brain. The band have recorded what can only be described as rap-meets-tat spoof song under the pseudonym 'The Nappies' which is featuring for this week only on their website Coldplay.com.

Readers can enjoy the full lyrics here which feature classic lines, such as:

"When your boobs dem got ten times the size,
The cups gone up from an A to D.
It’s bad for you but it’s fun for me."

Introduced by a glam rock mulleted George Martin, it sees the equally mulleted band performing an ode to Gwyneth and fatherhood. Proof that the band does indeed have a sense of humour, if a bizarre one at that.

Rightly or wrongly, it's what the internet was made for...

Friday, May 14, 2004

Gmail account up for sale on e-bay

As blogger.com has decided to delete my most recent post about Gmail accounts being up for sale on e-bay (maybe it was a little too close to the money?), I'm going to have to put this edited version up for now while it makes it's mind up whether to actually publish it or just to delete 20 minutes work for no good reason.

The post talked about how, as a member of Blogger.com, you were offered a beta Gmail account, an offer which I took up (edited verdict: jury is out for now). Bizarrely a number of people are offering up their accounts for sale on e-bay - the going rate is around $20-30 and there are plenty of early bids.

It makes me wonder whether they know something we don't and a beta Gmail account is the thing to have when the big Google IPO begins if you want first dibs on those goldrush shares.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Diverse strategies in the hunt for e-commerce gold

Diverse strategies this week from two big online brands, Napster and e-bookers. Reversing recent trends from many pureplay online brands, such as lastminute and dabs, to move into offline partnerships and limited high street exposure, travel site e-bookers has retreated to online. The travel stallwart has cut 15% of its staff and closed 10 shops across Europe in a move to cut costs and move more operations onto the internet.

In the opposite camp, former illegal download phenomenon Napster, back from courtroom drama, takeover and going legal, has announced a partnership with classic traditional brand, Dixons, which will see Napster being promoted in-store and pre-installed on Dixons-brand PCs.

In an increasingly cross-media world, such moves are typical of the strategies of maturing internet brands searching for the best media positioning to maximise revenues and reduce costs. Just don't expect to see Google on your high street quite yet...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Tube alerts to your mobile - one small problem there, guys...

News today from Revolution that Orange will provide frustrated commuters with text alerts on travel delays, so you can plan your way out of tube hell by knowing about where 'there-may-be-trouble-ahead'.

This all sounds wonderful, but unfortunately when you most need this service you are stuck underground going nowhere on the circle line and can't get a signal on your phone. Oh dear...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Aussies - you've always got to go one better...

Now our antipodean cousins have gone one too far by claiming they invented streaking. Given that the Poms invented original versions of nearly every sport going (even if we can't win at them), it's sacriledge to lay claim the ultimate sporting compliment, the streak.

The date they proudly claim is April 1974, but a very quick trawl through the internet streaking archives reveals a previous streak at Mortcombe FC in the 1969-1970 season. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?
As part of the great traffic experiment the site's been submitted to Is my Blog HOT or NOT?, a derivative of the (in)famous 'Am I Hot or Not?' that proved the ruin of so many young egos - could this site prove the end of this young blog?

I'll update on what this does to the traffic dribble that's come through in the last few weeks since I put that embarassing counter up.
Will it, won't it?

The big story in 2004 looks like being the will they/won't they Google IPO. Things are starting to reach a head with speculation that it is "expected to file for its $1bn IPO later this week".

One interesting question is whether UK investors bitten by the Lastminute.com share price IPO will be tempted to gamble once more. With the growing number of good news stories in new media that have been trickly through recently and the recent profits at big names Amazon, Ebay and the like (even Lastminute, kinda), this blog believes there'll be plenty of takers if the big announcement does prove true.
Why weight?

With obesity issues reaching a crescendo, I've found a timely way to check how you fare on the web with an online Body Mass Index calculator, echoing the onmipresent health quizzes so beloved of of the lifestyle press - a good example of using the interactivity of the web in online communications. And the best bit is you don't even have to move from your desk to find out...

Friday, April 23, 2004

War Child Music gives downloads a good name

With the wealth of negative press around illegal downloads, it's been interesting to see some positive news coverage for once. A series of artists, including Badly Drawn Boy and Travis, have donated tracks to War Child Music which can be bought individually at 99p or as part of a monthly unlimited subscription. It remains to be seen whether this will gather sufficient critical mass to be worth a monthly subscription, but it's an innovative approach to fundraising which may well catch on.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Dancing chicken update, just don't mention the Golden Arches...

As the dancing chicken takes the net by storm, there have been numerous debates on discussion boards and across the office about what he will and won't do. Helpfully you can save yourself considerable time (if interacting with guys in chicken suits does it for you, that is), by letting someone else do all the hard work for you and viewing the request list.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Dance chicken, dance...

Hats off to BK for one of the weirder (and braver) Easter virals. Take a guy in a chicken suit, a clever database and let the audience make him do whatever they want him do (more or less) - presumably before consuming him in some unrecognisable form on the way home from the pub.

They even included a 'bad taste' feature just to keep the lawyers happy.

So go on, make that subserviant chicken dance!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

E-bay PR team, I salute you (but you're weird)

This blog is a big fan of the E-bay publicity machine. Every week they churn out yet another weird E-bay item story providing a valuable service to hacks with deadlines looming and pubs to patronise.

This week they have surpassed themselves in the bizarre stakes with news that someone is selling Potpourri clams on the site and have helpfully including several verses all about it, including the instructive lines:

There is nothing so refreshing
As a house that smells like clams,
Except, perhaps fresh compost,
Or Prostate-gland Exams,
(it goes on and on from here in a similar clam-inspired vein)

As usual, this has been picked up by blogs everywhere (if you can't beat them, join them, I say) and no doubt will soon be adorning those difficult to fill spaces on page 11 on every print publication on earth.

E-bay, I defy you to trump this one next week.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Playing the April fool

Yesterday saw the annual media sport of trying to fool the public into believing their April fool's stories. Efforts ranged from the inspired article claiming that Peter Mandelson was going to become the new chairman of the BBC (cue mass hysteria among many BBC staff) to a more commercial effort from BMW announcing new technology allowing your to cook your dinner as you drive home.

With the speed at which stories proliferate across the media, the game has become seeing how far your story can spread before it's revealed to be a joke. A clear winner in my eyes was the story about plucky Brit's schemes to create a chicken-powered nuclear bomb featured in The Times which they are still denying to this day. The story featured the memorable quote: 'It does seem like an April fool but it most certainly is not. The civil service does not do jokes.'

Given that they do actually do leaks, how about a rumour that former immigration minister Beverly Hughes will be appointed as the new BBC Director General?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

P&G sends brand publishers in circles

When the big brands starting hearing about this whole internet thing, some bright spark explained that here might be a route to cut through the media and talk direct to the customer while saving vast amounts on expensive ad slots. So we saw the emergence of a series of branded consumer portals delivering news and content galore to their customers direct with the odd subtle or less subtle product plug along the way.

Annoyingly for the brands, consumers can be cynical and choosy in the competitive internet space and didn't go for the idea of their brand as their content provider and many of these sites simply ran out of budget and now live on in muted versions of the grand vision.

Interesting then that things are starting to come full circle and P&G is looking to invest further in their consumer sites after the success of their HomeMadeSimple portal with the launch of Healthexpressions.com, a healthcare portal. Also consider Coke's repeated content driven initiatives such as the move to Coke music downloads and there is food for thought for all big brands.

Certainly it's not going to start a brand content rush on the previous scale, but moving into the area of broadband and premium content is king, expect others to follow suit.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Now Google has honoured the site with a dash of PageRank green, I've decided it's about time to start seeing how many people are visiting the site, if anyone in fact is apart from me and the odd puzzled work colleague.

So, after a quick search, I've plumped for the stat counter below. Unfortunately, the powers that be at blogger.com don't seem to allow me to put the javascript into the site, so it's the html version only. The html version tells me very little and I'll have to content myself with a simple number rather than more juicy information on where people are visiting from.

Fortunately, this also comes with an invisible option, so if the stat stays at 1 for months at a time I can do the decent thing and hide my embarrassingly small visitor numbers from the world. Erm, not that the world would be watching in that case, but still...

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Blogging my way into Google

The web is a big place, too big in fact. With all the billions of sites out there, just how do people find your site, or more importantly my site?

I've downloaded the Google toolbar and despite my efforts and writing the kind of (semi) regular content on all kinds of (semi) vital topics, the PageRank bar (indicates Google's rating of your site) has resolutely remained at zero despite submitting to Google several months ago. It's enough to parade my blog in front of Inktomi and get my valued readers from MSN, Freeserve and the like.

However, all that has changed on the latest Google rotation and a trace of green has appeared on the Google toolbar giving my blog a score of 3. So what's changed since then?

Well, I'd like to think that Google has finally come to its senses and recognised my efforts, but I think the guys at Blogorama have more to do it. The blog is now featured in their list of blogs and clearly that's good enough for all-powerful Google to get out the green paintbrush.

Surely, it's only a matter of time now before that elusive (and lucrative) Sunday Times column comes through.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Move over Britney and Madonna, there's a new PR queen in town

Debate has been raging about whether Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' was in fact a well/ill-chosen (delete according to today's whim) PR stunt. Ad Age recently featured an article from a PR firm praising it as a stunt saying 'It raises the bar for all of us' in a nice bit of PR for his agency who I've already forgotten the name of.

Despite an unlikely reported 200,000 complaints (that's some serious switchboard action), she has got her conveniently timed single to the no.1 slot, leaving us to wonder whether this is finally proof of the old PR adage that no publicity is bad publicity.

All this leaves me wondering just how long it will be until we start getting waves of publicity-desperate celebrity streakers?

What's that? Oh, yes... Jordan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The publicity gravy train

Is it just me or does E-bay's publicity machine just keep rolling out the same story over and over again with no sign of media weariness? The dot com success story is in the press every other week for endless subtle twists on the 'someone sells something weird on E-bay' story. Great kudos for their PR agency and early to the pub for the hack in question (and good luck to them both).

One look today reveals Germans selling tanks online and a Bristol University student auctioning her virginity online (surely the Britney $7m bid a few years ago scooped this one?).

Monday, February 09, 2004

What next, cholesterol-reducing cholesterol?

Birthdays can be sobering times. Before you know it, you're the wrong side of 30 and looking down the barrel of belly expansion, high cholesterol and dodgy knees.

To counter the inevitable, I've started to take an interest in those little yoghurt things and Benecol spreads that all claim to lower my double-cream and red meat-fueled cholesterol levels, but now even my bread is chipping in with the goal of batting my poor health into the next 30 years through an attack on all fronts.

It all makes me wonder whether in the future even my cholesterol is going to start reducing my cholesterol levels?

Friday, February 06, 2004

Janet Jackson goes tits up

For once Wacko Jacko has found himself upstaged on the bad publicity front by his own sister, Janet. Her crime? The cardinal sin for our friends across the pond of exposing a breast.

For the nation that airbrushes out the infinitely corrupting nipple out of its quasi-porn men's lifestyle magazine segment, exposure on the TV holy grail superbowl slot has induced mass hysteria. For those of us this side of the pond, we can only wonder at the damage done to the youth by the tassled mammory gland and hope that the hideous image is soon erased by a daily diet of screen violence.

In fact, she has made internet history as the most searched-for name of all time, pipping the mighty Britney and even Paris Hilton's promotional video, according to the Search Engine Journal. Let's just be grateful she didn't display the full set or George W would have had to invade.