Thursday, 26 November 2009

The stage is set

Just went to the weirdest comedy night, Laughing Boy at what used to be The End near Holborn.

The venue itself was a little odd, being more regularly used as a strip club (note the hoop in the pic; there was a trapeze above the bar too). But it was the audience that was really peculiar. Half of them would only laugh at the vilest material, too idiotic to grasp anything vaguely subtle, while the other half were seemingly grossly offended when anything bodily was mentioned and sat, arms folded, in stony silence.

Really felt for the comedians, who were genuinely funny, and particularly Dara O'Briain who was testing out new material and must be tempted to jack it in after that depressingly unresponsive audience. We had a chat with him at the end, he's a really lovely man, and he said it was a shame to waste genuine, sweet stories on a crowd like that.

Maybe it's an age thing, and only people who've actually got some life experience can relate to jokes about episiotomies and the like without cringing? Or jokes about an aging sex life, a la Mike Wilmott tonight? It's funny people! The human body is a strange and wonderful thing and you've got to lighten up and laugh a little.

Space invader

On West Central St, near Tottenham Court Rd, location of the comedy night I'm at tonight (of which more later). Interesting venue - there's a hoop and a trapeze hanging from the ceiling...

Monster spin-offs

My brother brought this odd trend for reimaging classics to my attention - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is also available. Bizarre, but i love the cover!

And another one

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Monday, 16 November 2009

Christmas is coming...

Took Mark's parents into town on Saturday for afternoon tea at Liberty's, and to check out their Christmas shop (that's their giant robin above). Regent Street was already chocka with Christmas shoppers, it's too early!

Logan thankfully slept through the tea, and woke up in time for his first visit to Hamleys - he was fascinated by the Christmas windows but even more impressed by the huge selection of Thomas goodies to play with. Seeing the Christmas lights will be a new family tradition - I remember our annual visit to Fenwick's in Newcastle.

It was a fab day but we all agreed the best bit was lunch at Souk, you can't beat meze and a bit of europop!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Happy cupcake Tuesday!

Just had to share the most beautiful cupcake I've ever seen.

Monday, 9 November 2009

To charge or not to charge

It seems Rupert Murdoch may have some reservations about charging for content after all, while the Guardian will be one of the first to charge for an iPhone news app - are the tables turning?

He might block Google, too - now that would make the news aggregators happy.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Mr and Mrs Walsh

Had a fab day at Helen and Barry's wedding yesterday.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Who knew I was so relevant?

The Guardian's digital media page just posted this story about news aggregator NewsNow. Ignore the typos.

SLA Europe: Free v Fee, the Future of News

Attended a really interesting panel discussion on the future of newspaper content hosted by SLA Europe last night. There's a debate going on at the moment as to whether news outlets should charge for online content or continue to provide it for free, now that advertising revenue has dropped so dramatically. The Murdoch clan are all for charging, while Alan Rusbridger prefers to focus on the journalistic changes that need to occur to avoid newspapers becoming obsolete.

Andrew Hughes from the Newspaper Licensing Agency and Jeremy Lawson from Dow Jones represented the traditional news industry, while Larry Rafsky, CEO of Acquire Media, stood up for web aggregators and solicitor Laurence Kaye gave the legal perspective. The evening was ably moderated by Don Roll, of Alacra (thanks for picking my question!).

Although the panel didn't achieve a consensus (and with such opposing views from Larry and Andrew it was unlikely), everyone made some good points. What I took from the discussion is that with web technology developing so fast, newspapers (and copyright law) are playing catch-up. Business models for online content are untested and it's only once papers begin to charge that we will see whether such a model is successful. What is certainly true is that unless newspapers come up with a new approach they will struggle financially in the future market.

Below are my notes from the evening; Neil Infield at the British Library has blogged his notes here, and you can join the discussion on LiveWire.

Andrew Hughes, NLA
  • NLA is working towards a licensing agreement for B2B paid-for web content
  • web content is often unique - NLA study found 31.5% of online content hadn't appeared in print, and 38% of print content never makes it to the web
Laurie Kaye
  • "It takes time to change the law, business models, cultures..."
  • media is global so may eventually have a global legal framework, but have to begin by working within existing national copyright laws
  • "copyright provides the framework for a creator to decide how their content is made available" - whether free, fee or a hybrid model
  • B2B copyright is much more clearcut than personal
  • need an "effects-based" approach to copyright - look at the commercial effect of republishing in the real world, and base law on that
  • different tyes of intermediary require different approaches - individuals providing links between the user and the content vs people taking the content and republishing it
  • "fair use" - there are about 30 exceptions for research, private study, reporting etc. Google argues fair use because they only reprint snippets of articles but it's for commercial gain so may not be
  • there's a lack of infrastructure to police online content at the moment
Larry Rafsky, Acquire Media
  • "there's no going back once you taste freedom...this toothpaste is not going back in the tube" - newspaper content is already free online, can't reverse it
  • different definitions of free - difference between content that is written professionally and provided free but where the writer will be paid (what aggregators are interested in), free content written by non-professionals (user-generated, personal blogs etc) and professional content that is "gifted" (given away with no interest in payment)
  • bad definitions - content that is free to some but not others, and content that shouldn't be free but is made so illegally
  • Acquire always links to the publisher and gives sparse summaries so users have to follow the link to read the article (Google provides enough info that the reader has no need to click through)
  • there is no difference between a user accessing content directly and getting it through a proxy, as long as the content provider gets the same emolument
  • the web is run by links - RSS feeds, librarian recommendations, email links to friends - so "site cite" (what a web aggregator does) is not protectable
Jeremy Lawson, Dow Jones
  • Dow Jones are supporting publishers and their right to decide how content is used and what the rights covering it are
Did papers start to dig their own grave when they suggested they might charge for content?

Larry Rafsky - whether papers charge depends on their existing market and where they can make money (need to analyse all models), so there's no right answer
Andrew Hughes - papers started digging their own grave when they gave content away - "free is a four-letter word"
Jeremy Lawson - papers who will have to change their business model from free to fee have an awful lot of work to do to make it viable

Do web aggregators really pose a serious threat to revenue when some argue they are increasing traffic to sites by posting links?

Laurie Kaye - linking is part of the way the web operates, but there is some potential commercial bad effects from aggregators
Andrew Hughes - "Russian doll" situation - yes, aggregators increase traffic but that doesn't necessarily lead to an increase in revenue; the NLA isn't asking to license links to friends, only those who charge and benefit financially from linking; newspapers need to assert their rights over the investment they are putting into editorial content; less than a tenth of 1% of newspaper web traffic comes from aggregators, most comes from Google
Larry Rafsky - as 85% of news traffic comes from Google, why not charge Google if you want to charge aggregators?

Is Kindle the future of newspapers?

Larry Rafsky - papers will be web-only in the future, and paper will become a novelty item like candles now, special editions and gift items; advances in flexiscreens by Microsoft will mean the death of newsprint by 2030
Andrew Hughes - no, the future lies in providing streamlined content to individual users (Liverpool fans just want sports news about Liverpool), not in recreating replicas of the print edition online

With web advances, do you foresee the death of newsprint?

Andrew Hughes - no but there will be trouble sustaining the pagination
Jeremy Lawson - print medium will become a much smaller fish in a much bigger pond but won't become irrelevant

What can the industry do to help users distinguish what is fair use and free to access and what isn't?

Laurie Kaye - we're still working through what is commercial or non-commercial but the law will reach that point
Andrew Hughes - we need to make it easier for users and businesses to know what they can and can't do
Larry Rafsky - you need to add value to content, beyond what Google provides, to make B2B paid-for content viable

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Mrs Klein @ Almeida

Saw Mrs Klein last night, the latest offering from the Almeida just off Upper Street near Angel. It's my favourite theatre - small enough for intimate performances, big enough reputation to have real talent on show.

Clare Higgins played the title role brilliantly, completely inhabiting her character so that it felt at times like you were evesdropping through her Hampstead window, not sitting in the audience. Zoe Waites as her daughter Melitta and Nicola Walker
(Ruth from Spooks) as her slightly sinister pupil Paula were also wonderful; particularly Walker, who for minutes at a time was just an observer in the background but never slipped out of character.

The subject matter was a bit wordy at times (all three are analysts, dealing with the aftermath of a death and a complex mother-daughter relationship) but it was truly gripping and the performances made it for me. And how refreshign to see an all-female cast! Tickets start at six pounds so you have no excuse to miss it.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Another reason not to vote Tory

I don't think many people would mistake me for a Conservative supporter, but this story in today's Guardian, and the accompanying comment piece by Tory candidate Dorothy Luckhurst, have convinced me that no woman should consider voting for them.

Elizabeth Truss, selected to represent South West Norfolk last week, is now being threatened with deselection for failing to notify selectors that five years ago she had an affair with an MP. In her article, Luckhurst describes being deselected for becoming pregnant, within marriage, without consulting her constituency association. She has regularly been questioned on how she will manage her career and her children, while male colleagues are never quizzed on their private lives.

It's as if Tory associations are still living in the last century, when fathers had no involvement with their children and women gave up work when they had them. What business is it of theirs what a woman does in her private life, so long as it doesn't impact on her job? David Cameron can attempt to modernise the Conservative Party but sadly it seems that at grassroots level it is as misogynistic and outdated as ever.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Roller disco joy

Been to the roller disco near Vauxhall for Helen's hen do. Managed to stay upright the entire time, hurrah!

Pumpkin free zone

'Examine the Grace of God' - because pumpkins are the devil's work.