Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where Am I? LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Google+, All of the above and more.

Networks are now so obvious. In the long ago past – about 1997 – we carried our networks around in our heads, diaries and phone books or club memberships. Sometimes other people may have had a better idea of our networks than we did – like your wife, parents or secretary, but that’s no longer the case.

I’m still understanding Google+ and not because it is so complicated but because I wonder at my investment. I jumped on LinkedIN and Twitter quite early on because, in both cases, I saw immediate personal utility. The ‘network’ aspect offered an interesting side benefit. In the case of twitter, while I enjoy my use of the service, which I would describe as a cross between delicious tagging and news broadcasting, I remain dissatisfied that I only have limited control over my networks. In contrast, other networks, in particular Facebook, have been failures for me perhaps because I am either uneasy mingling my networks or haven’t found a utility that solves a problem (at least for me). What is clear to me, is that investing in the application is critical to maximize any benefit and, this is where my problem presents itself. How many of these networks can you maintain properly without becoming dissatisfied, frustrated or under-whelmed? And underwhelming to others?

One of the odd things about Google+ has been the amount of people who have added me to their circles when I have no idea who they are. Some of this may have to do with the pseudonym issue: On other networks such as twitter they might use a handle other than their real name. What is the etiquette here? Am I supposed to add all of these people? At least with LinkedIn you have an ability to ask the person where they know you from before you add them to your network. Maybe I should have a circle tagged “anonymous” or “unknown”. Some, perhaps many of these ‘contacts’ may be readers of this blog which has a wide distribution via RSS. Unfortunately, I have no insight into my RSS population other than a subscriber number and the knowledge the number increases every week. I really wish I knew who these people were.

Recently, I went through the exercise of matching my outlook contacts, LinkedIN, twitter and Flickr networks. It was a curious exercise. I have approximately 2,000 contacts in my outlook address book. About 50% of these were not found/matched in LinkedIn. This was particularly surprising to me since both contact lists are ostensibly ‘business’ related and therefore inherently linked. In my small use case, the exercise may also indicate that LinkedIn could have a lot of upside. Of the matches in twitter, I could only find about 20% of my contacts had twitter accounts. In the case of Flickr – which I use a lot – of my 2,000 outlook contacts less than 20 had Flickr accounts and in most of these cases the accounts were basically dormant. In the case of the latter two networks, it is likely that many people are not using their business email to register with all networks. This complicates an exercise like the one I went through. LinkedIn has tried to address this by allowing more than one email address; however, I don’t see this as an effective mechanism. (It works functionally but not in a practical sense for the users).

Which brings me back to Google+. There are some features of the service which will be useful but I will need to invest time to understand and make use of it. In the meantime, I continue to manage my other networks as best as I can. Please join me but don’t be shy about introducing yourself.

Here are my networks:

LinkedIN

Twitter

Flickr

Blogger

Google+

I have no idea what to do with Tumblr.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

United the logo of Continental

I learned to love Continental Airlines although it was hard at times – particularly when I was forced to cab it to LaGuardia to avoid their monopoly pricing on certain routes, but all in all the experience of travelling via Continental airlines has grown comfortable and predictable over the years. Perhaps I have modified my expectations but as any frequent traveller will tell you flying is not at all a glamorous experience. It has probably never been for any who started flying in the early 1990s. I’ve never been much of a United Airlines customer and I wonder how the merger of Continental and United might negatively impact my travel experience.

Gaining trust and ‘comfort’ with a brand represents a complicated dynamic and in their plans for integration, there’s no doubt significant time has been spent on allying all manner of fears their customers will have over the merger. The combined airline will be named United but will use the Continental livery – the color pallet, fonts and the Continental tail fin image. In this effort, which reflects I think their entire approach to the merger, management has taken the worst of all possible alternatives. Firstly, the word “Continental” connotes a far more expressive and international travel image than the word “United”. This is not because I am biased but “Continental” is aspirational, it reflects a big picture view of travel. “United” on the other hand has more to do what they are doing – uniting two transport companies – than to what they are offering customers. I can image the two management teams sitting in a big conference room agreeing to use “United” to make them all feel like a team. Sadly, nothing to do with what the customer may feel about the new airline.

The same is true of the “new” corporate strip. The Continental logo looked old and dated ten years ago. Oddly, while bland, the new United strip that they were in the process of rolling out prior to the merger looked more up to date. But that’s been cast aside in process as has brand strategy.

The combination of the two branding efforts has created a new corporate image which is jarring to anyone familiar with either company. It neither takes the best of each, nor inspires existing customers to expect a new and improved experience from the combination. The merger team has missed an opportunity, in a very basic way, to excite their customers (me) and, I fear this lack of inspiration will color the entire United/Continental merger effort.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N30): Arundhati Roy, JSTORE Illegal Downloads, Kaplan's $1.6mm Bill, High Journal Prices, Three Rules of Reviewing + More

The New Statesman has a long feature article on Arundhati Roy and this is only a small sample (NewStatesman):
Roy has not published any fiction since The God of Small Things, much to the impatience of the six million people who bought that book (and, you imagine, her agent David Godwin). Over the past 14 years, she has instead devoted her energy to India's most urgent political challenges: nuclear tests, dams, Kashmir, Hindu nationalism, terrorism, the emergence of a super-wealthy elite and the 800 million citizens who still live on less than Rs20 (30p) a day.Roy's version of India is uncompromising.

The country, she says, is in "a genocidal situation, turning upon itself, colonising the lower sections of society who have to pay the price for this shining India". Its leaders are "such poor men because they have no idea of history, of culture, of anything, except growth rates". The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is a "pathetic figure as a human being". Democracy is thriving "for a few people, in the better neighbourhoods of Bombay and Delhi". The Indian elite are "like an extra state in America". The country has a defence budget of $34bn this year. "For whom?" she asks. "For us." In her account, there is a war taking place, not with Pakistan or China, but within India's borders: the sham democracy has turned on its poorest citizens.
Activitst and technology innovator Aaron Swartz faces 35yrs in jail for illegally accessing and downloading millions of articles through the JSTORE account at MIT. (Clearly, a speed reader). Inside HigherEd takes a look at the charges (IHEd)
Swartz has been involved in numerous efforts to make more information available free to more people. But the charges he faces make no distinction between his possible philosophical goals and any other kind of theft. "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away," said a statement from U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.

While Swartz could not be reached for comment, his many fans mobilized support online, charging that the government was essentially treating him as a criminal for violating the terms of service in place at MIT and with JSTOR members. More than 15,000 people signed petitions on his behalf within hours of word of the charges he is facing.

The blog of Demand Progress -- a group Swartz previously led as executive director -- published a statement saying that "he is being charged with allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web. The government contends that downloading said articles is actually felony computer hacking and should be punished with time in prison."
The Chronicle blog Wired Campus notes the move by research libraries UK to take a more aggressive stand against 'high journal' prices with particular attention paid to Elsevier and Wiley. This activity stems from a report commissioned by the group in November and a subsequent journal article published in March, 2011. (Wired Campus)
David C. Prosser, executive director of the association, said it is pushing for a reduction of 15 percent in the cost of Big Deals, and that it focused on Elsevier and Wiley because those contracts expire at the end of 2011. “It was a slow and gradual realization” that they had grown too expensive, he said. “There are many benefits to the library community of the Big Deals. So for quite a while, those benefits were outweighing the major concerns.”

But like their counterparts in the United States, British research libraries have endured financial strains lately. In Britain that included not only the global recession and a major reorganization of higher-education financing but a crash in the value of sterling in 2008. Mr. Prosser said that hurt libraries in Britain because they pay most of the larger publishers in euros or dollars, not in sterling.
“So we lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of buying power overnight,” he said. “That was the point at which people began saying, ‘We’re tied into things over which we don’t have a lot of control.’”

According to Mr. Prosser, Elsevier and Wiley have both proposed deals with new terms, but neither comes close to satisfying the group’s conditions. “We are having to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we may not be able to reach a deal,” he said.
From Dow Jones: A Kaplan school has agreed to pay $1.6mm in fines related to a whistle blower case on fraudulent enrollment practices. The wire report also notes the resignation of two senior Kaplan executives (DJ):
The suit was initially brought by David Goodstein, the campus's former director of education. The U.S. Department of Justice contacted Kaplan about the program in 2008, according to Washington Post securities filings.Under the settlement, CHI will make total payments of $1.6 million. An attorney for Goodstein said in a press release that the payment includes $1.13 million for the federal government and just under $500,000 to satisfy student loans of program participants. Goodstein will receive a percentage of the government's settlement amount.

The campus had been the focus of other investigations, including a program review by the Education Department.Earlier this week, Kaplan said that the chief executive and chief financial officer of Kaplan Higher Education were resigning. The organization is shifting many services provided by that unit into two separate institutions--one for campuses and the other for its online operation.
Here is the corresponding press release from Kaplan on the executive changes:
Kaplan, Inc. Chairman and CEO Andrew Rosen today announced a more cost-efficient organizational structure for Kaplan Higher Education (KHE). This change will reallocate resources to preserve and enhance quality student services and academic innovation, while streamlining general and administrative activities. Most centralized services provided under the KHE umbrella will be shifted to the units that house its two separate types of institutions—the Kaplan College/Kaplan Career Institute campuses, and Kaplan University. Some centralized services will move to Kaplan, Inc. The KHE administrative infrastructure will essentially disappear.

Jeffrey Conlon, who has served as Chief Executive Officer of Kaplan Higher Education since 2009, will be leaving his post. Conlon has been with Kaplan since 1993, first in its Test Prep division. He joined Kaplan University in 2004 and became President of its campus-based schools in 2005. He took over as president of Kaplan Higher Education in 2008.

“During his tenure, Jeff has been instrumental in improving student outcomes, raising academic standards, and introducing the bold Kaplan Commitment initiative, which helps ensure that our students are making well-informed educational choices,” said Rosen. “He has been an important part of Kaplan for many years, and we owe him a deep debt of gratitude.”

As part of the restructuring, Lionel Lenz relinquishes his role as chief financial officer for KHE. Lenz joined Kaplan in 2009 and has earned a reputation for managing complex operations to support large-scale growth.

Scott McLemee in Inside Higher Ed takes a view on the changes in book retailing (IHEd):

But schadenfreude at corporate misfortune is, in this case, a bit shortsighted. The impact of “restructuring” the retail book and magazine trade (to use the blandest possible term for this wave of creative destruction) goes beyond the obvious immediate effects on consumer behavior. A revival of independent bookselling is the least likely outcome, at least in the short run. Rather, the shrinking number of outlets for hardbacks and paperbacks will create a greater incentive for publishers to emphasize e-books. (As if wiping out the expense of putting unsold copies in a warehouse were not enough.) The tendency is likely to be self-reinforcing: the easiest way to get an e-book is from an online vendor. Last summer, a prominent cyberpundit predicted that the printed book would be “dead” as a major cultural form within the next five years. This seems a little less preposterous all the time.

There are three rules of book reviewing - once you get past the introductory passages on how nasty you can be (Slate):

In that old style-sheet, put together when books and newspapers were in their heyday, I found the three principles that have guided me ever since as a writer and as a reader. Of course, this three-part Golden Obligation may be filled compactly, on the way to essayistic arguments and insights, as in many a Slate piece. Great models like G.B. Shaw's music reviews or Max Beerbohm on theater are great because they show how to do the essentials, then get quickly beyond them, in ways that are fun to read.Every book review, said the anonymous document, must follow three rules:

1. The review must tell what the book is about.
2. The review must tell what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.
3. The review must tell what the reviewer thinks about what the book's author says about that thing the book is about.

And in sports, Tiger proves he still has something left to surprise us with (in a nasty way) NYT

From the twitter:

BBC News - Author Lee Child wins top crime award

Documentary about graphic designer Milton Glaser.

BeyondChron: Open Letter to AG Holder: Don’t Let Authors Guild Hijack “Google Books” and “Freelance” Copyright S'ment

Prospect of privatizing Toronto’s library sparks outcry

WSJ.com - Macmillan Fined Over Africa Contracts Fraud

RLPC-Charterhouse gets 500 mln euro loan for BvD buyout

Move to seize David Hicks' book cash will test US military conviction

Monday, July 18, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N29): Library of Congress, Bertelsmann, Michelin Guides, Bookstores, P.G. Wodehouse, Education Funding Report + More

There's a documentary on the Library of Congress on CSPAN this evening (7/18):
This program looks behind-the-scenes at the Library of Congress, allowing viewers to learn the history of the institution as they tour the Library’s iconic Jefferson Building and see some of the treasures found in its collections of rare books, photos, and maps. It will also feature a look at some of the presidential papers housed there, ranging from George Washington through Calvin Coolidge. Viewers will learn how the library uses technology to preserve its holdings and expand public access to them. It will also show how technology is helping to uncover new information about some of the items in its collections.
From the FT a short interview with Bertelsmann's Hartmut Ostrowski (FT):

While BMG blossomed from an apparently inauspicious rump of Bertelsmann’s first music publishing unit, which was sold to Universal in 2006, education has proved no more than a mantra for several years.

“We’re patient enough for the right opportunity to come along,” says Mr Ostrowski, although he will not say whether this might be soon or “in two or three” years’ time. “We also know we’ll need patience until the business grows to any appreciable size,” he adds, suggesting that any first step could be small.

And again from the FT, a look at the prospects for The Michelin Guides (FT):

Michelin stresses though that when taken together, the maps, guides and digital businesses are profitable. But the losses incurred by the red books have become such a concern that Michelin has turned to outside consultants. Accenture looked last year at three different scenarios for the red books, including outright closure.

The nuclear option was quickly rejected, partly in recognition of the undoubted brand value of the guide but also because of the political impossibility in France of such drastic action. However, Accenture warned that to carry on with things as they are today would mean yearly losses at the guide hitting €19m by 2015, representing a cumulative loss of €70m over the next four years.

As a result, the consultants proposed a new business plan that would allow Michelin to make money by offering online “services” to the hotels and restaurants included in the guides.

The thinking seems to be that Michelin would do well to seek a share of the good fortune that its awards bestow on restaurants, possibly by creating a “red book” website that provides paid-for links for those establishments with Michelin stars and allows users to make online reservations.

From Intelligent Life: Goodbye to Bricks and Mortar booksellers (IL):
Like Barnes & Noble, Borders has a reputation for being a brutish corporate behemoth that has been edging out more humane book-selling competition for decades. Isn’t this just a story of comeuppance? But as we noted in March, these colossal book empires have also played an important role as often lone bookstores in small American towns and suburbs. where readers may otherwise be limited to what can be found at Wal-Mart. A friend and former colleague who grew up in Texas often bristled when New Yorkers kvetched about stores like Borders. When one of these multi-storey bookstores moved into his home-town, he couldn’t believe his luck. Urban centres can be counted on to provide affable places to buy tomes, flirt with bookworms and listen to visiting authors. Elsewhere it is stores like Borders that have provided a rare, atmospheric and pressure-free space for bibliophiles, often in strip malls next to a Home Depot.
A lost letter from P.G. Wodehouse may shed light on the genesis of Jeeves (Telegraph):

The letter appeared in the celebrated Conning Tower column written by Franklin Adams, a friend of several members of the Algonquin Round Table coterie. The section regularly featured the contribution of famous names such as Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker and Groucho and Harpo Marx.

The newspaper added a title — “Grantland, Priceless Old Bean, Is Off in Florida, But He Shall Ever So Well Be Spoken To, We Mean To Say” - that could also have come straight from the pen of Wodehouse.

The author was living in America at the time the letter appeared in Jan 1920, by when had published just five short stories in the Jeeves cannon. Although all the protagonists are long dead, meaning a definitive verdict on the letter’s provenance is probably impossible, there are compelling indications that it was written by Wodehouse.

From The Foundation Center (via FullText Reports): Moving Education Reform Forward: Grantmakers Reflect on a Convening with State and Local Government Education Leaders

This issue brief provides critical insights into how education grantmakers (and foundations in general) may be able to work more effectively with state and local education leaders. Based on interviews with participants at a national gathering convened by the Council of Chief State School Officers in January 2011, it offers a nuanced assessment of this type of convening, including the challenges that face grantmakers and education leaders in their work to coordinate future efforts effectively.

From The Twitter this week:

Why Content Isn't King -

Harry Potter, Inc: How the Boy Wizard Created a $21 Billion Business -

FT: Follett is being shopped - Retained Credit Suisse

BBC Worldwide reports record underlying profits

Collins buys A&R WA bookstores -

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spear Fishing in Tahiti

Spear Fishing in Tahiti, 1974
Another weekly image from the family archive. Click on it to make it larger.
I've only a vague idea where this is but the series is interesting. This fisherman is first seen standing on the shore, then we see him launch this spike into the surf and pull out this purple, blue and grey fish. Looking at his spear it seems like he couldn't miss however there's probably more to it than that.

I've dim recollection of my father traveling to New Caledonia, Fiji and Tahiti for business development in the mid-1970s and in the set of three rolls of film there are a lot of pictures of beaches and shots from aircraft but no identifiable landmarks. This one could be anywhere but I'm guessing Tahiti.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FT: Follett is being shopped - Retained Credit Suisse

According to the FT, the privately owned Follett company may be in the process of selling itself (FT):

Follett Corporation, the private River Grove, Illinois-based educational publishing company, is in the midst of a sale process, two industry bankers told dealReporter.

It is not clear whether the company is selling one of its six divisions or the corporation as a whole, the bankers said. Follett did not respond to requests for comment.

Credit Suisse, which declined comment for this story, has been retained to advise Follett as it looks at options, one of the bankers said.

The company plans to hold management presentations at the end of July with potential suitors, the second banker said. He said he thought the company must have had an initial round with a “select group” of bidders. Follett generated USD 2.7bn in revenue last year, according to its website. The company appointed Chuck Follett acting CEO 12 months ago.

The article is sparse on details however they admit that neither the company nor the bank has responded to requests for comment. Silly acquisition possibilities are suggested but no one really knows who would be interested in either the entire company or selected parts.

This brings yet more unneeded uncertainty to the book retail channel.

Blackboard in agreements with Cengage, Wiley, Pearson and Macmillan

From press releases with links to the full texts a raft of agreements out of the Blackboard user group meeting in Las Vegas this week.

Cengage Learning, a leading global provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions, today announced a strategic partnership with Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) to create a deeper integration and full interoperability of Cengage Learning's digital content and solutions with the Blackboard Learn™ platform.

The new partnership plans to provide direct access to Cengage Learning's digital content, core curriculum solutions and increased functionality for institutions utilizing Blackboard's Web-based teaching and learning platform. Users of Cengage Learning's rich digital learning solutions and content will gain seamless access through automatic sign-on and gradebook integration, creating a simpler and more intuitive user experience for both instructors and students using Blackboard Learn.

The effort plans to offer a better experience for users of online homework provided via CourseMaster products such as Aplia and SAM as well as CourseMate and course cartridges. The added level of integration is made possible through Cengage Learning's standards-based, interoperable, Web-services architecture (MindLinks) and the Blackboard Building Blocks™ program and open APIs of the Blackboard Learn platform. The agreement will also include ongoing interoperability options for Cengage Learning's MindTap program and future product development.

PRNewswire

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE: JWa, JWb) and Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) announced today a new global partnership that will enable institutions running the Blackboard Learn platform to seamlessly access Wiley’s rich collection of learning content and tools – including the popular online teaching and learning environment, WileyPLUS.

As part of the partnership, the companies plan to integrate the content and capabilities of WileyPLUS and Blackboard Learn to simplify and strengthen the process for adding digital content and tools to courses. The integration plans to enable users of WileyPLUS to access the system with their Blackboard® credentials and automatically synchronize grades and other data with the Blackboard Learn gradebook.

The integration plans to eliminate the need for students and instructors to manage activities and information in separate systems with multiple logins, and it also plans to greatly enhance adoption and workflow for users of Wiley’s digital content and tools within Blackboard Learn, the most popular learning management platform in higher education.

WileyPLUS is a research-based, online environment for effective teaching and learning that includes the entire digital textbook. With WileyPLUS, students will always know what to do, how to do it, and if they are doing it right through instant feedback, personalized learning plans, and self-evaluation tools that are available 24/7. Available for over 225 Wiley titles and used in over 20 countries globally, WileyPLUS builds student confidence because it takes the guesswork out of studying and is proven to improve student outcomes.

“With this partnership we are extending our mission to ‘Help teachers to teach, and students to learn’, said Joseph Heider, Senior Vice President for Wiley’s Global Education. “We are confident that combining Blackboard’s market leadership with the proven ability of WileyPLUS to help instructors and students succeed, more students will have access to affordable and effective online educational solutions.”

Wiley

Pearson and Blackboard today announced plans to integrate Pearson's MyLab and Mastering programs with the Blackboard Learn online teaching and learning platform--providing users with a convenient, seamless transition between systems. Pearson's MyLab and Mastering programs this year are projected to have more than 9 million student registrations at higher education institutions, many of whom use Blackboard's learning management system. The announcement was made at BbWorld® 2011, Blackboard's largest user conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.

With the planned integration, faculty and students will gain fast, easy access to digital content and the MyLab and Mastering programs using a single sign-on process and their Blackboard® credentials. Faculty will have quick access from their Blackboard Learn course to MyLab and Mastering tools, assignments and learning analytics, including the transfer of MyLab and Mastering grade information to the Blackboard Learn gradebook. Academic and IT administrators will benefit from the integration's use of industry standards to efficiently scale and manage campus users' access to MyLab and Mastering for improved learning outcomes. A well-established service relationship between Pearson and Blackboard will provide customer service for the integrated products.

Marketwatch

Macmillan and Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) announced today a new partnership that plans to enable seamless integration between Macmillan's digital learning offerings and the Blackboard Learn(TM) platform. The partnership responds to strong demand from faculty and administrators to access learning tools and content provided by Macmillan's publishers - which include Bedford/St. Martin's, WH Freeman, Worth Publishers, and Hayden McNeil - directly within the Blackboard Learn platform.

The partnership will allow Macmillan to deeply integrate its products with Blackboard's teaching and learning platform to provide a seamless user experience and to take full advantage of the capabilities of Macmillan's products and the Blackboard learning ecosystem. The integration plans to enable faculty and students at educational institutions to easily sign on and access Macmillan's digital content and course offerings with their Blackboard® credentials and to automate upload of grades and performance data into the Blackboard Learn gradebook. The net result plans to be a more user friendly, engaging, and effective teaching and learning experience.

"Blackboard has become the platform of choice for the management of teaching and learning in thousands of schools and universities, and our collaboration will allow us to fully leverage the capabilities of Blackboard Learn to deliver all of our digital content and learning systems to our instructors and students in ways that are simple and powerful," said Brian Napack, President of Macmillan. "Long term, we expect that this partnership will yield exciting innovations that will leverage the skills and assets of both companies."

The announcement was made at BbWorld®, Blackboard's annual user conference being held in Las Vegas this week. As part of the partnership, Macmillan becomes a Blackboard Premier Partner(TM) in the Blackboard Partnerships Program(TM).

Blackboard

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Juxtapositions: Cap't Bob and the Digger

In the early 1970s, Robert Maxwell lost out in his attempt to buy the News of the World, which was purchased by Rupert Murdoch, who went on to create a newspaper empire in the UK. At the same time, Maxwell was castigated by UK financial authorities as someone unfit to run a public company, a charge that dogged him for the rest of this life. As it turns out, he was correctly categorized as 'unfit' when, many years later, he perpetrated one of the biggest financial frauds in UK history. In the intervening years Maxwell and Murdoch 'battled' each other for media supremacy but, in reality Maxwell was never a match for Murdoch and, this was confirmed when Cap't Bob 'fell' off the back of his boat as his media empire was crashing down around him.

Murdoch on the other hand played aggressively and seemed to have won hands down when he finally acquired the newspaper jewel he had long sought in the Wall Street Journal. At the time, the triumphalism that accompanied this huge media purchase knew no bounds, especially when it came to the fate of the New York Times. Murdoch and his revamped WSJ would 'destroy the Times' or so the pundits - and the Digger himself - suggested. The Times didn't help matters with a rapidly falling share price and a seemingly confused electronic strategy. And, the company was even 'forced' to take a loan from a Mexican.

Well, how times change: Murdoch won't be falling off his boat but, he may be out of a job when it becomes clear that the phone hacking at the News of the World wasn't so much the rogue activities of a small group of reporters but a significant element in the business strategy at News Corp. In my view, the phone hacking will be prevalent at other UK newspapers but it seems likely that nowhere else was it so embedded in their operations than at NewsCorp. For that, it will be easy to show NewsCorp as a company out of control and without a moral compass and, for that, the boss will have to go.

And, about that loan from the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim that the New York Times got so much heat about? They just paid it back early. The Times may not be out of the woods yet, but I bet things don't look so bad from eighth avenue at the moment.

Revisit With Digital Galleys

The Publishing Trends Newsletter from my friends at Market Partners recently took a look at the migration from print to electronic galleys and profiled a company I've been interested in for a while. NetGalley pioneered this migration and they are seeing increased success from publishers willing to make the transition. Here is a sample from the Publishing Trends article:

Carrying the torch in the e-galley revolution is NetGalley, a company owned by Firebrand Technologies, that helps facilitate and fulfill galley requests from site members by providing them with DRM-protected files authorized through Adobe Digital Editions and accessible on Androids and iPhones, desktop computers, and multiple tablets and e-reading platforms. Through the site, members composed of reviewers, media professionals, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and educators can peruse NetGalley’s available titles, which are provided by over 100 publishers (and counting), including divisions/imprints from four of the Big Six houses. Members can select titles, and NetGalley serves as gatekeeper, passing along requests to publishers for approval (their website even clearly outlines approval guidelines for each publisher). Publishers can set expiration dates for when the galleys will no longer be available, and NetGalley also supports the aggregation of other digital promotional items like video, audio, or artwork under any title’s record page so that publishers can easily create digital media kits for readers to access along with the galley.

“We currently have over 29,000 readers registered on the site,” says Susan Ruszala, Director of Marketing at NetGalley, “and we’re growing by over 12% each month.”

It isn’t difficult to see the value for publishers in using e-galleys. With the cost of postage and printing running anywhere from $5-$11 per printed galley, digital galleys provide publishers with an unlimited amount of digital copies to send at their will instead of being limited by the amount of print copies their budgets will allow. E-galleys are also greener, cutting down on the carbon footprint of print production. To become a NetGalley client, publishers pay a one-time set-up fee based on the number of titles they publish, along with a monthly fee based on the number of titles on NetGalley’s site. There is no cost for professional reader membership.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AAP's Tom Allen on Georgia State Copyright Case

Earlier this week in PW the CEO of the AAP (Tom Allen) expressed his opinion over the Georgia State copyright infringement case (PW):
GSU implemented its policy in a way that invited disregard for basic copyright norms by delegating difficult copyright decisions to faculty without guidance, without meaningful review mechanisms, and without providing any funds to pay for permissions when necessary. The result poses a threat to the creative ecosystem in which copyright protection provides incentives for scholars and publishers to develop and distribute high-quality materials for students of all ages. Academic publishers, faculty, and librarians may have their differences. But they are tightly bound together in a common enterprise: education.

The transition to digital delivery holds great promise for quicker access to a broader range of materials through more channels, with greater flexibility for teaching faculty. And in some cases, lower costs. But the ecosystem is degraded by using digital formats as a rationale for the reproduction and distribution of significant amounts of copyrighted material for "free."

Misconceptions about the GSU litigation are widespread in part because the fair use exception to copyright is not widely understood. An educational purpose is one factor in determining fair use, but it doesn't stand alone. If all copying for educational purposes were fair use, the production of high-quality educational content would decline or disappear.
Also, I posted the following in June from the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

What's at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case (The Chronicle)
A closely watched trial in federal court in Atlanta, Cambridge University Press et al. v. Patton et al., is pitting faculty, libraries, and publishers against one another in a case that could clarify the nature of copyright and define the meaning of fair use in the digital age. Under copyright law, the doctrine of fair use allows some reproduction of copyrighted material, with a classroom exemption permitting an unspecified amount to be reproduced for educational purposes.

At issue before the court is the practice of putting class readings on electronic reserve (and, by extension, on faculty Web sites). Cambridge, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publications, with support from the Association of American Publishers and the Copyright Clearance Center, are suing four administrators at Georgia State University. But the publishers more broadly allege that the university (which, under "state sovereign immunity," cannot be prosecuted in federal court) has enabled its staff and students to claim what amounts to a blanket exemption to copyright law through an overly lenient definition of the classroom exemption. The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction to stop university personnel from making material available on e-reserve without paying licensing fees. A decision is expected in several weeks.
What follows are several different points of view of the case - all very interesting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beyond the Book: Curation Nation - Interview with Steven Rosenbaum

The tsunami of content we all face on a daily basis is an unmediated mess, so what do we do to mitigate that? Chris Kenneally interviews Steven Rosenbaum the author of Curation Nation go get to the bottom of it. Some excerpts below and here's the link to the Podcast:
People don’t want more information. They want less information properly organized so that you can help find what you’re looking for.
...
So it’s really as simple as this. The guy who I think in many ways figured this out earliest was Jeff Bezos at Amazon. If you look at Mechanical Turk and its history, what Bezos understood was there are certain things computers can’t do. And the history of Mechanical Turk is about one out of every couple hundred thumbnails on a book jacket or a CD were wrong. The CD would be the Rolling Stones and the thumbnail would be Cat Stevens and there wasn’t any way if the metadata was wrong in that thumbnail that a computer could look at the picture and look at the name and go, wait. Mismatch. Humans do that instantly and so the original launch of Mechanical Turk was to say, I’m going to pay people a very small amount of money to read the title of a book or a piece of music and look at the image and go, oh, good. That’s the proper image.

And so that ability to look at content selectively and creatively and say, you know, I’m going to build a site about Corvettes, but I don’t care about repairing Corvettes or restoring Corvettes. I just want great, cool pictures of Southern California, bright sunshine, beaches. Well, that’s very different than the New Jersey Corvette community. And so all of a sudden – Google would have you believe that if they just had more data, they could chop things up into the right boxes. But really what it comes down to is the job of a magazine editor or a book editor or a newspaper editor or a programmer at a television network is part science and part art, and the art part is the part that computers don’t do very well.
...
But I would argue, with all due respect to Mr. Keen, that he wants to be the one to define who a professional is. And in a world in which the tools are ubiquitous and we all have cell phones and we don’t need a printing press for a newspaper or a transmitter, we’re all going to make content and so what we’re beginning to see is a Web in which everybody is a publisher and increasingly what I want to do is narrow the number of places that I go to listen to the world. I want to kind of dial down this fire hose of information and say, you know, as opposed to listening to the AP feed unvarnished, what I really want to do is listen to my NPR station in New York and CNN and one other professional news organization and maybe Twitter for a different kind of filter. But I don’t necessarily want to be in a position where I’m drinking from the fire hose of data.
Here is the Podcast.

And you can buy it on Amazon.com.


Here is my series on content curation.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N28): Hacking May Cost $100mm, Potter's Last-Not so Fast, Blackboard, Harvard & Social Hot water, Catch22 + More

File under "believe it when it happens": NewsCorp could face $100mm fine if US authorities investigate payments: (Telegraph):

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) have been increasingly aggressive in bringing cases against corporations under America's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). They have so far imposed penalties as high as $800m on companies – such as Siemens – where there has been evidence of persistent and unaccounted for bribery.

FCPA experts told The Telegraph it would be "very surprising" if the DOJ didn't take action against News Corp, and would be likely to do so this week. Any FCPA probe against News Corp would damage its reputation and could further destabilisie James Murdoch's position as Rupert Murdoch's heir apparent.

Experts said it would be likely to involve a "systematic and all encompassing" investigation of every one of its business units worldwide, to uncover unlawful bribery, legitimate payments wrongly accounted for, and to check whether sufficiently robust anti-corruption measures are in place.

News Corp would have to bear the cost of the probe, which sources said would "easily cost north of $100m" and tie the organisation up in red tape for between two and four years.

Of course the Telegraph is a competitor...

JKR hints last Harry Potter film may not be the last. She also said she'd start a movie studio and hire her own actors. (Actually the last bit is a lie, I made it up) Telegraph:

JK Rowling told the crowd that while she had no immediate plans to resurrect her boy wizard, she would "never say never".

To deafening cheers, she added: "It is my baby and if I want to bring it out to play again I will."

Inside Higher Ed's take on the acquisition of Blackboard:

Still, the sale of Blackboard might have a greater impact on Wall Street than on Campus Drive, experts say. The "losers" in this case may be confined to small software companies hoping to be bought out and short-sellers who bet against Blackboard.

As for college and university customers, “I don’t think life changes very much,” says Urdan. For Blackboard to continue to be reliably profitable, it cannot afford to drive clients into the arms of its competitors by jacking up prices, Urdan says. Hence a greater focus on earnings would not necessarily mean a bigger squeeze on customers.

University Press's experiment with book rentals (IHed):

Stanford is not alone. Academic presses at several other universities are running similar rental programs, including the presses at the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and Ohio University.

Through Adobe Digital Editions, customers browsing press websites can purchase temporary access to an e-book, which they can read both online and offline for the duration of the lease. Some presses, such as Iowa, set the rental period — 120 days for a $10 flat fee — to correspond with the length of a semester. Others offer shorter-term options and variable pricing. The Michigan press, for instance, lets students rent an e-book for 30 days at 40 percent of the full e-book price, or for 180 days at 75 percent of the full price.

In contrast with the recent boom in the market for print textbook rentals, none of the presses contacted by Inside Higher Ed reported huge sales in temporary e-book licenses. But the idea is not so much to make a mint as it is to create a pathway to using e-books by offering a cheaper, temporary option for a reader who might not be looking to build a personal digital library. There is no secondhand market for e-books like there is for print volumes; temporary licenses let students save on books they have no intention of keeping.

Opps, Harvard sociology researchers may have compromised Facebook user profiles in a their social-network project (Chronicle):

It was the kind of collection that hundreds of scholars would find interesting. And in 2008, the Harvard team began to realize that potential by publicly releasing part of its archive.

But today the data-sharing venture has collapsed. The Facebook archive is more like plutonium than gold—its contents yanked offline, its future release uncertain, its creators scolded by some scholars for downloading the profiles without students' knowledge and for failing to protect their privacy. Those students have been identified as Harvard College's Class of 2009.

The story of that collapse shines a light on emerging ethical challenges faced by scholars researching social networks and other online environments.

The Harvard sociologists argue that the data pulled from students' Facebook profiles could lead to great scientific benefits, and that substantial efforts have been made to protect the students. Jason Kaufman, the project's principal investigator and a research fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, points out that data were redacted to minimize the risk of identification. No student seems to have suffered any harm. Mr. Kaufman accuses his critics of acting like "academic paparazzi."

A Bill Wyman in Slate thinks the movie industry is about to repeat music history (Slate):

It seems plain that the 2010s are going to be the decade of video. There are good reasons, looking at matters in the short term, for the movie and TV industries not to get their acts together. There are genuine economic forces at work that prevent it as well. (For one, the principals involved need to accept what the music industry never did—that the overall value of its product, which had been propped up by its monopoly control of it, has been considerably and permanently lessened. It's a lot to ask.)

But we can see what didn't work for the music industry. Will Hollywood figure it out? I doubt it. For one, the power of the parties involved, the complexity of their interrelationships, and even the internecine battles playing out inside some of them dwarf those of the music biz. Consider: Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Nintendo; the TV hardware makers (including Sony); the studios, each with corporate parents and international interests (Sony again); theater chains; TV studios (Sony again), TV networks; stars, writers, directors, and their unions; ancillary players like Netflix, Amazon, and the like; and others I'm forgetting. (And then add antitrust regulators here and, even more importantly, in the EU into the mix.) Try getting that crew of misfits and miscreants to agree on anything.

Another factor mitigating against them proactively fixing the problem: The stakes are in a sense lower, in that theater exhibition, a big chunk of the studios' income, won't be affected, for now. The exhibition field can be thought of as the movie industry's equivalent of the live-concert industry in music, but one where all the money doesn't go to the artists. But: The increasing quality of the home-viewing experience, particularly for adult-appeal films, is I think an underappreciated iceberg ahead. And the free money coming from innovations like 3-D and IMAX showings, however evanescent their appeal, are for now covering up a lot of softness in the industry.

Not entirely sure I agree with his argument.

Daniel Swift in The New Statesman on the 50th anniversary of Heller's Catch22 (NS):

Later, the catch is something simpler. The doctor tells Yossarian his own version of catch-22, which holds: "You've always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to." Finally, an old woman in the ruins of Rome explains: "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." The catch is always what traps us and we are caught less by the precise rule than by our apprehension that such a rule must exist.

This sounds like a lot of weight to place on what is an extravagantly funny book, but it is precisely its jokes that elevate paranoia to a style. One character "turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days, no one could stand him." Another "had a bad start. He came from a good family." This is a screwball, side-of-the-mouth kind of humour, and if you say it fast enough it just might sound wise.

Like so much of the novel, these jokes are an invitation to a desperate laughter, the only response to a world in which all are trapped without understanding why and the only rule is repetition. One character was named Major Major as a joke by his father. When he joins the army, he is quickly promoted to the rank of major "by an IBM machine with a sense of humour almost as keen as his father's". He is ruined from the start and his fate is out of his hands.

And an interview with the man himself (NS)

We Ten Million (Intelligent Life): The world is lousy with aspiring novelists who will probably never be published. Alix Christie offers insight into what keeps them working ...

This is enough to give the struggling writer pause. Meanwhile, the publishing industry itself is undergoing some discouraging changes. New numbers show that even successful authors earn far less money from books than they used to. In an industry driven by hunger for the next blockbuster, the chances of making a living as a writer are slimmer now than ever. My timing has always been off, I told my husband, fellow journalist and leading fan, whose job maintains the roof above our heads. Just as I’d decided to tackle another draft of my new novel—in search of that great, elusive shape that might translate into sales—the market had moved on.

In the face of such odds, merely writing a novel must seem perverse. Self-indulgent, at the very least, if not financial suicide. The question is less whether the novel as a form is dying, or if the internet can offer a lifeline to certain writers. What cries out for explanation is the strange, persistent fact that millions of us spend years attempting something for which we are certain to see little, if any, reward.

From the twitter this week:

Boost for library campaign as court orders judicial review -

The phone-hacking saga threatens Rupert Murdoch, the press as a whole, the police and politicians

Australian Booksellers Association Wary Of Pearson REDGroup Deal Paidcontent






Sunday, July 03, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N27): ProPublica's Newspaper Apps, Hemingway, EMI + More

Very interesting article from Nieman Journalism Lab about the way ProPublica's newest news app uses educational data and how the effort is a view on the way newspapers can provide both more depth and engagement (social aspects) for their readers. Well worth reading for the lessons academic publishers might take away (Nieman):

ProPublica leads the field in developing news apps; each one demands a unique strategy for determining how users will actually navigate — and benefit from — the app’s interface. With this one, “we were focusing a lot more on what behaviors we wanted to encourage,” says Scott Klein, ProPublica’s editor of news applications. ProPublica is constantly thinking about how to organize reporters, both within and outside of its newsroom, around its stories, notes Amanda Michel, ProPublica’s director of distributed reporting. “Here, we wanted to take it one step further.”

With that in mind, the app invites both macro and micro analysis, with an implicit focus on personal relevance: You can parse the data by state, or you can drill down to individual schools and districts — the high school you went to, or the one that’s in your neighborhood. And then, even more intriguingly, you can compare schools according to geographical proximity and/or the relative wealth and poverty of their student bodies. (Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, just down the street from the Lab, has 1,585 students, 38 percent of whom receive a free or reduced-price lunch; Medfield Senior High, a few miles southwest of Cambridge, has 920 students and a 1-percent free/reduced lunch rate. Twenty-four percent of Rindge and Latin’s students are enrolled in advanced math courses; for Medfield High, the rate is 42 percent. Compare that to Health and Human Services High School in Lawrence, which has 89 percent of its students on free or reduced-price lunch — and an advanced-math-enrollee rate of 4 percent.)

“It really is an auto-story generator,” Umansky says.

This week the NYTimes review A World of Fire by Amanda Foreman which takes a view of the American Civil War from the British perspective. I haven't read this yet but I did get it in the UK in December mainly because the US publisher wasn't releasing it until the summer (now). NYT

Now that Americans are taught that the war was a noble conflict waged by Lincoln and the forces of light against misguided and contumacious Southerners, it’s especially valuable to be reminded that this was far from how all the English saw it at the time. To be sure, almost no Englishman defended slavery, long since abolished in the British Empire. The British edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had sold an astonishing million copies, three times its American sales, and the Royal Navy waged a long campaign against the slave trade: on his first visit to Downing Street, President Obama was presented with a pen holder carved from the wood of one of the ships that conducted that campaign.

But while some English politicians, like the radical John Bright and the Whig Duke of Argyll, ardently supported the North, plenty sided with the Confederacy. They even included W. E. Gladstone, on his long journey from youthful Tory to “the people’s William,” adored by the masses in his later years. Apart from sympathy with the underdog, many Englishmen believed that the South had a just claim of national self-determination.

Turn on Fingerprint File by The Stones and dwell on the idea that the FBI drove Hemingway to suicide (Observer):

Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI's surveillance "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide", adding that he had "regretfully misjudged" his friend's fear of the organisation.

The reassessment is significant as it was precisely because of Papa Hemingway that the writer's fear of being bugged and followed by the FBI first surfaced. Hotchner's belated change of heart casts a new light on the last few months of Hemingway's life and two incidents in particular.

In November 1960, Hotchner writes, he had gone to visit Hemingway and Mary in Ketchum, Idaho, for an annual pheasant shoot. Hemingway was behaving oddly, Hotchner recalls: "When Ernest and our friend Duke MacMullen met my train at Shoshone, Idaho, for the drive to Ketchum, we did not stop at the bar opposite the station as we usually did because Ernest was anxious to get on the road. I asked why the hurry. 'The Feds.'

Here is the Hotchner piece from the NYTimes.

EMI has dumped ASCAP the music tracking and collecting agency (NPR):

Leigh and other analysts say that EMI may be the first big publisher to cut ASCAP out of digital rights negotiations, but it won't be the last. TuneCore's Price says that in an age of shrinking profits, companies like EMI want to eliminate the fees they have to pay to ASCAP. EMI might be especially concerned with short-term cost-efficiency at this particular moment, since it recently put itself up for sale.

"They want their balance sheet up," Price says. "That's why EMI is rushing around doing this, because they're trying to get bought by Russian billionaires."

The interests of EMI's publishing arm may not necessarily be those of the songwriters it represents. As it is now, ASCAP takes a fee from payments it collects, then distributes the rest of the money equally between songwriter and publisher. Casey Rae Hunter, of the nonprofit advocacy group Future of Music Coalition, says the big music publishers don't have the same obligations to songwriters that ASCAP does to those same people, its members.

In sport; Barca aren't just invincible on the field they also do good business (Economist)

Short week this week.

From the Twitter:

A Spectacle of Dust: The Autobiography by Pete Postlethwaite: review -

Richard III: Kevin Spacey, the king with the common touch -

ALA Annual 2011: Top Tech Trends: Apps on the Upswing: