German Chancellor vlogs

Angela Merkel has a vlog, reports CNET. If you remember the lady in a red dress jumping around in a quirky dance in the grandstand every time Germany scored during the recent World Cup, you will recognize her here.

Pity it’s all in German though.

A video of George Bush ambushing Merkel seems more popular.

IHT launches podcast of newspaper

All aboard the podcast wagon:

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) has launched a service that instantly generates an audio version of any article in the newspaper.

Owned by the New York Times Co., The IHT, is the first English-language website to deliver the service, with Swedish technology company ReadSpeaker.

The voice of a female with a British accent and only a slight robotic stammer reads the articles with nearly accurate intonation and word emphasis, though the beta version is not glitch-free as some words were difficult to understand in a recent test.

The IHT is providing the audio service free at and without advertising temporarily as it makes changes and improvements, but is seeking advertisers to help generate revenue.

Users can either listen to articles on the spot or download them onto an MP3 player or mobile phone, creating a personalized audio version of the Paris-based newspaper, which was founded in 1887 and is sold in 180 countries.

The IHT Web site draws 2.7 million unique readers a month.


An Emmy for your webisode?

From the

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has changed its bylaws, making broadband programming eligible for its Emmy Awards beginning in 2007.

“The implications, in my mind, are pretty huge. We used to be the redheaded stepchildren, and now we’re a legitimate part of the business,” said Brian Seth Hurst, a member of the board who has led efforts to recognize “new” media programming at the academy.

Academy officials said this week that they haven’t worked out the details but that drama series, reality shows, sitcoms and other video programs designed specifically for websites may seek to compete in all 27 prime-time categories.

This summer AOL plans to launch “Gold Rush!” as a Web-only reality program produced by Burnett. It’s also signed an agreement with Ashton Kutcher’s production company, Katalyst Films Inc., to develop five programs, each with at least 20 “webisodes.”

MTV, Nickelodeon and Bravo have broadband channels for TV and Web-only shows. Broadcast networks, meanwhile, are experimenting with digital platforms show by show. ABC and Fox have made some prime-time shows available online, and began airing a 10-webisode series of “The Office” Thursday.

The academy’s decision to elevate broadband television programming for prime-time Emmy eligibility was largely driven by the success of AOL’s broadcast of “Live 8” last year. More than 5 million people visited AOL Music to watch the fundraising rock concerts as they were broadcast from cities around the world on July 2, 2005.

Indeed, although the Television Academy is eager to bring the Internet into the Emmy community, it’s not quite ready to make room for YouTube entries.

“You’re not going to get user-generated content competing with network television programming,” Hurst said.

But he added, “If you developed a really compelling seven-minute piece that aired daily or once a week and had compelling characters and a good story, I’d say it might have a shot.”


Podcast downloaders rising

Odd headline: Podcast Users Outnumber Bloggers.

Why compare podcast downloaders to blog uploaders. That’s just nuts. You need to compare the number of blog unique visitors/readers to the number of podcast downloaders for it to make some sense.

Anyway, here it is, from Nielsen//NetRatings:

More than 9.2 million Web users, or 6.6 percent of U.S. adult Web users, have downloaded an audio podcast in the last 30 days, compared to 6.7 million users (4.8 percent) who published blogs in that time.

Nielsen//NetRatings also reported that around 5.6 million online adults (4 percent) have downloaded a video podcast in the last 30 days.

Podcast downloaders tend to be younger than the online population at large. Web users between the ages 18 and 24 are 72 percent more likely than the average Web user to listen to audio podcasts and 47 percent more likely to view video podcasts. Users older than 45 were less likely than average to listen or view podcasts.

Web users who use podcasts are far more likely to visit certain content sites than the average Web user, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Those who use audio podcasts are 506 percent more likely than average to visit Macworld, 453 percent more likely to visit Lycos Wired News, and 444 percent more likely to visit Slashdot.

Video podcast users were 764 percent more likely than the average user to visit, a CBS Paramount site based on the 40-year-old “Star Trek” TV franchise. Video podcast users were also 630 percent more likely than average to visit, and 624 percent more likely than average to visit


Blogger trades red paper clip and ends up with house

One year ago, Kyle MacDonald, a 26-year-old blogger from Montreal set out on a series of barter trades beginning with one red paper clip until he ended up with a house.

MacDonald is now the proud owner of a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home provided by the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan.


Unbundling mainstream media

Peter Rip, a venture capitalist with Leapfrog Ventures, handled Knight Ridder’s investments in start-ups from 1997 to 1999. At the time,he says, KRI was two cultures, 99% newsprint and 1% HTML.

He laments that by 1997, when the “meteor” of the Internet had hit earth, KRI realized that being a dinosaur was the “fatal choice”, not the decision to run once it hit.

“Turning KRI into a ‘pure newspaper play’ made the business more comprehensible to Wall Street, but it didn’t make it a better business.”

“The real irony of this situation is that for 15 years KRI was, by far, the most innovative newspaper company in the country, including its early experiments in teletext and having the first online newspaper (the Mercury News on AOL in the mid 90s).

“As I have written elsewhere, the Web presented a double whammy to newspapers everywhere. KRI was especially susceptible to these issues because its circulation was concentrated in metro markets like the Bay Area, Miami, and Philadelphia — markets where Internet penetration and usage of online services are highest. That makes it the first high profile victim, not the last. Local and rural newspapers see the writing on the wall, albeit faintly. But the effects go well beyond newspapers and even magazines.

“The traditional advertising supported media model is based on bundling content with advertising, with a large helping of proprietary distribution infrastructure. The entire media value chain is being reconstructed with the ‘help’ of online. Social media are re-defining content. Advertising networks are re-defining revenue generation models. Blogs are redefining the concept of ‘editorial brand’ in media.

“The fatal flaw of the online newspapers has been to be newspapers, online. This is obvious to everyone. What is not obvious is what local newspaper companies can do online that is defensible. Online local aggregation is kind of an oxymoron. It can be done more efficiently on a national scale, as Craigslist is proving.

“Perhaps Craigslist holds a model for what newspapers become – a series of specific unbundled ‘newspaper-like’ services, but done with community-generated content and executed on a national scale. Cross a Craigslist community model for local content creation and an Ebay-like reputation mechanism and you have a pretty good proxy for local news gathering. What’s missing are the editorial and investigative functions, but the blogosphere suggests editorial chaos self-organizes with some voices louder than others. Like most creative destruction, it is much easier to imagine a new entrant doing something like this than an established newspaper company.

“I especially would not like to be a television network executive these days. The rise of YouTube and the 100 other video-sharing sites represent a similar unbundling of entertainment and advertising delivered in a low cost distribution channel. The impact of cable on the fragmentation of the TV audience is nothing compared to the explosion of Internet video. If they think ‘Well, the quality of Flash movies is lousy. We have time,’ they are wrong. They only have Internet Time. The executive team at KRI thought newspapers would be around for 20 more years, despite declining circulation. And they likely will, just not KRI.”


Creative Barcodes

A small Japanese agency gets creative with barcodes and wins an award for it. Rightly so.

[via Cherryflava]
Cannes Titanium Lion Goes to Design Barcode
The designs

No more hay to be made in blogging sunshine?

Blog mogul Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, tells the the “world does not need more blogs”.

The former Financial Times reporter who made a cool US$50 million from social networking site First Tuesday and reportedly US$39 million from selling news aggregator Moreover Technologies was bearish about the future of blogging.

The gist:

1. “Better to sober up now, before the end of the party.”

2. Gawker has 15 sites, page views have doubled in the last year, Nielsen/NetRatings puts monthly unique visitors at 4.2 million.

3. Gawker, Deadspin, a sports site, and Valleywag, a Silicon Valley blog, have achieved cult status. Sploid, a tabloid-infested site built on screen shots, and Screenhead, an aggregator of video clips, have tanked and were put up for sale.

4. Editors at Gawker, Wonkette, Gizmodo, and Gridskipper were moved or replaced.

5. “You have to have the discipline to recognize what isn’t working and put your money and efforts into those sites that are.”

6.Blogging isn’t journalism but it attracts steady audiences that advertisers covet.

7.It is the conversation that occurs between reporters at the bar after they have finished their stories.

8.”There is no doubt that there is a bubble right now.” So why not cash out?
“Because it would be too hard to start over,” he said.

9.”The world does not need more blogs. If you count all the pages on MySpace, there is approximately one reader for every blog out there.”

10.Despite pessimism, he believes blogware isn’t up to mark yet and has 11 people, including four in Hungary, working on developing proprietary solutions. This summer, the company will introduce a music site.

11.”The barrier to entry in Internet media is low. The barrier to success is high.”


Is China a timebomb?

Sadagopan’s post about Gary Halbert’s the-sky-is-falling prognostications on China is a worthy read.

In a nutshell:
1. China’s boom is an understatement.
2. A banking crisis is inevitable because of huge non-performing loans.
3. Most Americans have no idea that China is in such bad shape financially.
4. Plenty of analysts believe China will work its way through the bad loan dilemma without a crash.
5. The risks of investing in China now are very high.
6. A meltdown in China could send the US and Western equity markets into a bear market as well.

More from Gary Halbert.

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