DAB – its demise has been exaggerated

World Cup

Fellow ex-Yahoo Fru Hazlett started it off when she re-focused GCap and reduced the amount of programming away from digital radio (this is is known in the UK as DAB after the acronym for the European digital radio standard ‘Digital Audio Broadcasting’), soon even that bastion of reliable commentary on media industry affairs The GQ magazine blog weighed in on how broadcast radio is dying.

Ok, first of all, GCap closed down stations to focus back on their core London demographic, people in Liverpool and the Northwest just aren’t as attractive to advertisers the bulk of UK economic activity is in the Southeast of England. Secondly regardless of what way you transmit your radio signal, either over the internet or via the airwaves you still have a cost of producing compelling content.

Whilst DAB does have its problems: expensive receivers the continuing proliferation of analogue FM radio devices in mobile phones, alarm clocks and even gadgets to play your iPod through your car stereo. Competition from internet radio is not going to kill broadcast radio anytime soon. The reason for this is technological. Whilst the internet is great for many services it is not a panacea for all communications problems. It is just that the media companies need to find the best content for the best delivery mechanism and at the best price point.

Let me illustrate this by a series of examples:

  • I love the cinema, with some noticable exceptions like Cloverfield, I still love watching film and even documentaries on the big screen, having it fill my visual field and benefiting from the giant soundsystem. I remember going to see Independence Day and coming coming out with a numb backside because the cinema had tricked my brain into believing that I had been on a wild adventure park ride in the air and space flight sequences. But I am in the minority. However, during the last World Cup, I worked next to the Odeon cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue and they broadcast World Cup matches live on the big screen. Lots of people who couldn’t get the time off or spend the money to go to Germany got to watch the match in a stadium like environment where they shared the agony and ecstacy of the beautiful game in a shared experience that was much more powerful than watching it on the internet, their own television or even down the local pub. This shared experience by proximity is something that the internet cannot offer in the same way
  • During the July 7 attacks on London by a homegrown suicide bomber cell, many people went to the Internet and the internet slowed to a crawl. I was working at Yahoo! Europe at the time, email slowed right down, you couldn’t get through to the news pages of many media outlets and I remember IMing Jonathan Hopkins who worked on the Yahoo! team over at Bite to see if everybody there was ok. There was a heroic effort by the editorial team led by Simon Hinde and a brace of engineering staff to reinvent the home page for the day so that we could keep Yahoo! readers/surfers up to date as best we could. Adverts came off the page and the whole download payload was reduced to make it easier to serve and download the news. During this time broadcast radio and television had no such infrastructure problems, it didnt matter whether there was 5 million or 50 million people watching, whilst there was still electricity the broadcast networks could cope with that demand spike. There is a technology called multicast which the BBC messed around with and Cisco had been talking about for at least the last decade that help fix some of the architectural problems of the internet, but it won’t be useful until the vast majority of internet switches have the multicast option turned on. The second point is we still may run into problems even with multicast if we don’t have enough bandwidth in the right places. Bob Cringely has a series of good articles on multicast technology here
  • Vinyl supposedly died sometime in the early 1980s, yet sales over the past few years have jumped. A combination of the use of compression by audio engineers on modern music formats, the platform for cover art that vinyl offers, modern pressing plants in the Czech Republic built by skillful local engineers and the ease of digital piracy meant that vinyl sales actually picked up over the past year or so. The sales are still small, but people like SimplyVinyl have recognised a very lucrative market niche

The point is that is that the demise of a media channel is less to do that one is better than another, its about the media companies being smart enought to find the right content for the right channel. And the right channel changes by culture as well. When I went to Hong Kong, I saw what Sir Run Run Shaw meant when he described cinema as ‘air-conditioned darkness’. In a place where people live quite literally on top of one and other, the ‘me time’ offered to individuals and lovers by the cinema in terms of privacy and respite from the heat and humidity is an important part of the cinemas appeal.


I just love the craziness of Uniqlo’s campaign to bring back plus fours and cashmire. This is an idea that like a fine piece of Japanese engineering looks ridiculously simple but is in fact fiendishly complex.


Links of the day

Piper Jaffray Article Archive – probably some of the most useful and insightful research by an investment bank

Normal Room – home for global homes, wonderful lifestyles and fabulous interior design – Home – for interior design junkies

FFFFOUND! – community for inspiration

7 Food Hacks to Stay Alert Without Caffeine | Zen Habits


Hitwise Intelligence – Robin Goad – UK: UK Polish Internet usage on the rise

The World’s Most Innovative Companies | Fast Company – I am surprised that Facebook has scored so highly in this article and we don’t have any of the results of IDEOs commissions described

The Keynote Benchmark – The Mobile and Internet Performance Review


Technology Can Be a Blessing for Bored Workers – New York Times

Telegraph Opens Tech R&D Lab | paidContent:UK

Come to the INQUIRER’s 7th birthday party! – The INQUIRER – end of an era with the departure of Mike Magee

Keyword Research for Bloggers: A Comprehensive Guide | Copyblogger

» Social Media in Russia sixtysecondview – David Brain shoots his own version of From Russia with Blogs :)

YouTube – Edison Chen Sex Scandal Apology – Hopefully this will finish once and for all the scandal and allow all the starlets to keep their jobs in the Asian entertainment industry. It would be a shame if Maggie Q had to retire :)

Facebook Fatigue


In early January I talked about the future decline of Facebook. Since that posting about a month and a half ago I am already seeing signs of Facebook fatigue amongst my friends. Ok, this isn’t a quantitate evidence, but I think that its the first brushstrokes in painting a larger picture of Facebook’s decline.

From one of my ‘early majority’ friends which I received on February 8th.

HI Guy’s

I have decided to leave face book as it’s rubbish, feel free to send me emails at johnny.xxxxx@gmail.com

Talk soon

I also received a message from Lloyd Davis about the Social Media Cafe. Lloyd is moving member engagement beyond Facebook. The interesting thing about the mail is that Lloyd recognised that ‘early adopters’ like social media mavens don’t all ‘actively engage’ on Facebook

This FB group has been great for getting your attention and for you to show your committment (I’m thrilled that we still have 300 members) but it doesn’t really work for day to day activities and not everyone is an active facebook user – btw please *don’t* leave the group just because we’re doing stuff elsewhere – it goes down very well when I’m bigging up what we’re doing with money people that we’ve got 300 peeps on FB :)

Whilst I don’t think that the Daily Mail is one of the leading authorities when it comes to social media, but they have data points that they feel indicates the start of a decline (if not a plateau) in UK usage of Facebook.

Links of the day

British ISPs to Delve into Behavioral Ads, Too – deal by Phorm, these guys seem to have stepped up a gear. Prospective acquisition material by AOLGoogleIACMicrosoftNewsCorpYahoo?

middledigit.net | jonathan hopkins » Missed opportunity for Marmite campaign? – Interesting analysis of Marmite

Real-time Twitter Search – Tweet Scan – Real-time search on twitter

delicious Blocks Search Engine Spiders

400,000 unlocked Apple iPhones turn up on China Mobile – and more are in HKG, Singapore etc

TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » The UK is now crucial to Google’s revenues