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    8th January 2014

    I think, like me, many people will have noticed an increase in the price of e-books in recent years. A subset of those people will be, like me, vaguely aware of an antitrust case around the selling of ebooks, involving Amazon selling below cost and Apple trying to disrupt the market. There was news last year that a court had declared that ebook purchasers were due a partial refund, and I felt some excitement at the prospect of a fat Amazon gift voucher (that hasn’t yet materialised). That was about my level of understanding before I downloaded The Battle of $9.99. It was a story that I felt I should know more about, and so I picked up the book to learn.

    In this short book, Albanese outlines the revelations from the antitrust court case against Apple. It’s a factual account that seemed fairly balanced in its assessment, and contained some genuinely surprising revelations along  the way. For example, publishers whose books were previously sold below cost-price by Amazon now net a lower revenue per title despite increased consumer prices. Indeed, publishers were willing to accept that deal on the basis that the perceived value of books would not be eroded further, on the basis that it protects their profits in the long-term.

    It’s only a brief book, so this can only be a brief review, but it was nonetheless interesting. It was well-pitched, introducing economic and legal terms as necessary without either patronising or befuddling me as a reader with experience in neither. I would have liked a little more discussion about why this story had so little traction with the public at large, particularly compared to similar financial scandals in which consumers felt “ripped off”.  I’d also be interested to read a similar account of iTunes disruption of the music market, but I guess without a antitrust suit, similar revelations are unlikely to meet public gaze.

    Back in the autumn, I reviewed Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski, which examined in much more detail the way in which technology has changed the reading experience. The Battle of $9.99 makes an interesting business-focussed supplement to that book. It’s well worth a read.

     

    The Battle of $9.99

    The Battle of $9.99 is available now from amazon.co.uk in Kindle format only.

    There's a book review every other Wednesday on sjhoward.co.uk. If you want to follow them, subscribe to the book review RSS feed or get the fortnightly review delivered automatically to your Kindle.

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    2D: Media rigour

    Filed by sjhoward at 12:30 on 19th June 2013 under 2D, Media

    Newspapers

    In some ways, watching a dying industry attempt a caterpillar-like metamorphosis is as fascinating as following a nascent one. It’s genuinely intriguing to see the choices different players make about which parts of their former selves they retain, which they reject, and what new elements they add to their products. For this 2D post, I’ve picked out two articles which look at very different responses to those challenges.

    The first is an article from the Columbia Journalism Review by Peter Canby about the fact-checking process at the New Yorker, and the way in which that process has morphed under economic pressure. I’ve never before seen such a clear admission from anyone – other than, perhaps, The Guardian – that mistakes happen.

    Ultimately we make mistakes. I wish we didn’t, but they are inevitable and constant.

    Admitting a problem is, as they say, the first step to addressing it. This article suggests to me the the New Yorker has invested a great deal of effort in working out how to minimise errors without maximising costs, and continues to do so.

    At the other end of the spectrum, as Martin Robbins describes in the New Statesman, the Daily Mail has taken a rather different approach, seemingly involving a rather strong dose of hypocrisy.

    The coverage of Kick Ass star Chloe Moretz at the age of 14 contains some classic examples: looking “all grown up” she was “every inch the classy young lady” at a film premiere, for example. All this comes from a newspaper campaigning vigorously against ‘sexualisation’ and its impact on children.

    I personally find the Daily Mail‘s approach distasteful, but it’s hard to deny that it has been successful. Mail Online is now the world’s most popular news website (perhaps “news” should be in inverted commas), with almost double the number of unique browsers of the BBC News website. Vox populi, vox dei – or at least vox populi, vox argentum. If this is what most people want to read, perhaps we should be a little more respectful towards their art in our tone, even if we make the argument no less forcefully that the protection of the individuals concerned should be paramount. Or perhaps we should focus on the underlying problems of society, rather than the newspaper-based symptoms. I don’t know.

    2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them! The photo at the top of this post was posted to Flickr by Jon S and has been used under Creative Commons Licence.

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    3rd April 2013

    Melanie Phillips has been on Question Time twice as often as all scientists put together over the last 18 months. There is still this feeling of “Why would you put a scientist on a current affairs discussion programme?”

    Mark Henderson, formerly science editor at The Times, but now with the Wellcome Trust, makes this interesting point in a piece about the media coverage surrounding the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was published in the eighth issue of the marvellous Delayed Gratification.

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    Photo-a-day 362: The Killing

    Photo-a-day 362: The Killing

    Filed on Friday, 28th December 2012.
    Filed on Friday, 28th December 2012 under Media, Photo-a-day 2012.

    20121228-220615.jpg

    Wendy bought me the second season of The Killing on DVD for Christmas, and I’m already fairly well into it…! I loved the first season; it was truly superlative TV. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you really should find the time! I’m very much enjoying this second season too.

    I came late to The Killing, only catching up with it a couple of months ago when it appeared on Netflix… which meant that I devoured the whole series in no time at all! I then got such strong withdrawal symptoms that I started watching the US remake… which was truly awful!

    Iain Dale blogged about Borgen earlier today, which is another series I’ve heard consistently brilliant things about, but haven’t yet found the time to watch. Perhaps it should be my next box set…!

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/12/28/photo-a-day-362-the-killing


    21st November 2012

    This is a thoroughly enjoyable personal history of journalism, written by the then BBC Political Editor, and former editor of the Independent, Andrew Marr.

    My Trade certainly delivers on its promise to provide ”A Short History of British Journalism”, but rather than delivering a dry journalistic history, Marr injects copious amounts of humour and panache. He provides many personal anecdotes – some longer and more developed than others, but all entertaining – and passes judgement on developments in the media world, rather than merely reporting their occurence. The personal touch makes the copy much more engaging, and prevents it descending into a super-extended newspaper feature, like so many other books by journalists.

    Anybody interested in British journalism would be well advised to read a copy of this book. It provides much background on how newspapers are put together, and how this has changed over the years. It even provides some history on the rivalries between newspapers, looking at (as an example) how The Mirror’s sales declined at the hands of The Sun, and how Marr’s own Independent set out to be different from everyone else, but ended up being much the same.

    This is not intended to be – and nor is it – a detailed history of the development of the British media. Instead, it’s an enjoyable romp through the subject, stopping off at points of interest – particularly recent ones, and many of which you’d have thought he may have liked to avoid. He goes into some detail about Hutton and the problems of modern journalism, making convincing arguments for his point of view – which is, in part, critical of his BBC paymaster. It’s very clear from his writing that he’s experienced as a journalist, not just because he lists his many and varied jobs, but also because of the detailed insight he is able to deliver, and the apparent wisdom of some of his comments.

    Certainly, this is a very easy-going enjoyable read, from a political editor who comes across as an affable kind of chap, and a book which I must highly recommended.

    My Trade is available now from amazon.co.uk in paperback and on Kindle.

    There's a book review every other Wednesday on sjhoward.co.uk. If you want to follow them, subscribe to the book review RSS feed or get the fortnightly review delivered automatically to your Kindle.

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    Photo-a-day 293: Granada Studios

    Photo-a-day 293: Granada Studios

    Filed on Friday, 19th October 2012.
    Filed on Friday, 19th October 2012 under Media, Photo-a-day 2012.

    20121019-181426.jpg

    I came across the former entrance to the Granada Studios Tour today, which has (in an act that looks a lot like corporate vandalism) been painted a single block of colour and had ITV’s uninspired corporate logo slapped on the front.

    It’s a sad sight. I visited the Granada Studios Tour a few times in my childhood – I have particularly strong memories of visiting with school when the whole complex was rented out for the whole school in celebration of the principal’s significant birthday.

    The Tour closed abruptly in 1999, one of the casualties of ITV’s financial rationalisation after the collapse of ITV Digital. There’s talk of the Museum of Science and Industry taking over the complex when Granada vacates it next year, though there remains a real threat of the land being sold and this keystone site in our national cultural heritage being flattened – especially after English Heritage’s baffling decision not to grant the site Listed status.

    So, in case it’s in a skip this time next year, here’s another picture of the complex’s iconic Granada TV logo:

    20121019-182809.jpg

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/10/19/photo-a-day-293-granada-studios


    Photo-a-day 258: Ceefax

    Photo-a-day 258: Ceefax

    Filed on Friday, 14th September 2012.
    Filed on Friday, 14th September 2012 under Media, Photo-a-day 2012, Technology.

    20120914-115703.jpg

    Tyne Tees is one of the few areas of the UK where Ceefax is still available… but not for much longer! In 12 days, this region will complete digital switchover and we’ll lose Ceefax forever.

    The degree to which this really doesn’t matter to me personally is exemplified by the fact that it’s taken me about 10 minutes to work out how to get it on my current TV…! But I used to use it quite a lot, so I feel a little bit sad to know that it will no longer be there!

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/09/14/photo-a-day-258-ceefax


    Photo-a-day 205: Television Centre

    Photo-a-day 205: Television Centre

    Filed on Monday, 23rd July 2012.
    Filed on Monday, 23rd July 2012 under Media, Photo-a-day 2012.

    20120723-205943.jpg

    This is, of course, BBC Television Centre. Wendy and I were here for a tour today, and also got roped in to being in the audience of a daytime quiz show!

    It’s very much a building of its time. It now has a slightly eerie deserted feeling to it – for me, it was a bit reminiscent of working in Newcastle General Hospital right before it closed down. That said, it was a great tour, and I’m glad we took the chance to do it while we could!

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/07/23/photo-a-day-205-television-centre


    Photo-a-day 194: Broadcasting House

    Photo-a-day 194: Broadcasting House

    Filed on Thursday, 12th July 2012.
    Filed on Thursday, 12th July 2012 under Media, Photo-a-day 2012.

    20120712-170957.jpg

    If you judge your bloggers by the photos they take, then I expect you won’t be very impressed with me today.

    Last night, I visited the art deco masterpiece that is the BBC’s Broadcasting House and its Radio Theatre, but emerged with only a single photograph showing this gimmicky interpretation of the BBC logo, from the Media Cafe.

    I was there to watch a recording of Arthur Matthews’s new comedy, The Golden Age. It was very funny. There was even a small amount of audience participation, including singing – I expect that I, along with the rest of the audience, will be signed by Simon Cowell as soon as it’s aired. It was quite interesting to see a Radio 4 audience in the flesh: the stereotypes are all true!

    Peering through the window of the Media Cafe, it was fascinating to see the new newsroom. From that perspective, it seemed rather smaller than I’d imagined, though it still looked like a pretty nice office to work in. There was also a corner upstairs for BBC Weather, which surprised me somewhat – I thought all that was done at the Met Office.

    Anyway, it was an interesting experience – and free as well. I’d definitely go back!

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/07/12/photo-a-day-194-broadcasting-house


    3rd July 2012

    YouView could entice a large cache of older viewers too technologically timid to hook their set up to a games console to view the world of TV a little differently.

    So said The Guardian this morning. It seems that, for YouView to be successful, Lord Sugar is relying on customers who are all of the following:

    1. Too tech timid to hook up a games console, but tech confident enough to hook up a YouView box using an almost identical method.
    2. Too money-conscious to spend cash on a Sky, Virgin, or BT Vision subscription (all of which offer – or will soon offer – most of the new features), but happy to spend £200 on a box whose additional online functionality is broadly comparable to that of a £49 Roku box.
    3. Have a broadband connection (or are willing to pay for one), despite tech timidity and money-consciousness.

    That doesn’t strike me as a huge market… but perhaps I’m underestimating the power of its big-name backers!

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    » Access this online at http://sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2012/07/03/a-quick-thought-on-youview


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