Gobsmacked by ‘amazing’ feat of spin

I read a classic piece of spin in The Business, Microsoft races to stop bank account hackers by Tony Glover. Tony who has been shortlisted in a category for Business Journalist of the Year wrote “Technicians at the US software giant Microsoft are working flat out to prevent a new security threat that this week could give criminals access to computer systems used worldwide by banks and governments.”

The general threat that Tony outlined called phishing has been covered for quite a while by national newspapers, something that wasn’t made clear in the article. In fact eBay, HBOS and Barclays customers have all been exposed to phishing attacks. The article was an excellent piece of PR work (my hat goes off to the members of the Microsoft press team) that failed to point out:

– Phishing has been going on for quite a while now, though the vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer is new. It is one of many security vulnerabilities in the product and phishing as a security risk is well understood

– Microsoft was trying to plug yet another security gap in their software that facilitates phishing? . Despite repeated promises to get tough security, Microsoft have failed to do so

– Using an alternative browser like Opera can help prevent the risk of phishing (though nothing in IT systems can be labeled foolproof)

– It is yet another good argument against software bundling like Microsoft (and increasingly Apple) have been doing and is an excellent riposte to critics of the EU competition commissions case against Microsoft. Bundling of software restricts the ability of competition to spur innovation and improvements in both quality and service

Free Internet calls move a step closer on page six goes on to talk breathlessly about a new feature in Microsoft Office that provides Internet calls. Its not that big a deal, I know of people who used Skype and before it Net2Phone and other over the net software phones. In fact Stephen Waddington, managing director of geeky PR firm Rainier was quoted in a newspaper case study talking about his firms uses of voice over the ‘net for international conference calls a few years ago.

In addition, many instant messenger programmes such as Yahoo! Instant Messenger, AIM and iChat offer audio and video calls between users. Another fallacy in technology circles is the concept of ‘free’, you’d think that technology marketers would be mature enough to realise that nothing ever comes for free, even ‘free’ pirated MP3s or DiVX movie files via a P2P network is partly financed by banner advertisements, spyware and adware in the P2P software itself. Freeware is often produced for altruistic reasons, even if it is to build a community of users or make ones mark with an elegant solution to a problem. In the case of ‘free internet calls’ it will help increase sales of broadband connections, where calls leave the domain of a connection between IP addresses over PCs some sort of ‘interconnection charge’ will be due. Its not new, its history repeating.

Back to the business


Over the past few years (from about the third quarter of 2000 onwards), I have been going to meetings with cash-strapped start-up companies with me-too products looking for PR to work sales objectives and marketing communications programmes for the price of a McDonalds Happy Meal.

On Thursday evening, I went to a more refreshing meeting for a potential new start-up (any more than that I cannot tell you because I have signed an non-disclosure agreement). The operation was obviously boot-strapped together, however the first added ingredients I noticed was that there was a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the project. This is in stark contrast to the meetings that I have with many start-up companies who are desparate to avoid the VC ‘dead zone’ of low growth or even an incurable burn rate.

After I had got over the enthusiasm, I noticed that they had managed to assemble a strong talented team; something sorely missing in many of the other meetings that I had been to as talent seemed to have migrated to safer larger firms or had left the rat race to have a better quality of life.

Finally, I noticed enthusiastic funders, both from financial institutions and private individuals, and no I don’t mean enthusiasm in the rapid dot.com type way; but people buying into a compelling offering. It was obvious from the discussion and questions asked that they had thought a lot about the project. Something that is missing from the UK funding scene at the best of times

I left the meeting thinking thank fc:uk for that!

Needle on the Wax


Over the past few weeks I have ignored shopping for new vinyl as I have managed my house move. To correct this I have a few recommendations available from Flying Records at the moment:

Chez Damier – Spiritual Warefare v.1 Trackmode competent well produced mellow house with mellow R&B lyrics, good but no cigar

Double U – Secret Love Sonar Kollectiv – great deep track with Moni Love type sassy New York vocal samples over a tribal beat that would have felt right at home in the Sound Factory

J Roc & Steinski – Ain’t no thing / Say ho Stones Throw – not a new track but an excellent re-release. Cut-and-paste production pioneer Steinski complemented with old school block party lyrics. No Bentleys, no Lex coupés, no bling, just dope lyrics and amazing production

I slaved away in the listening booth so that you didn’t have to!

A Few Links For You


– A guide for Americans on the ethics of football (soccer) matches. (Number one, the match is not divided into quarters like a pizza but two halves).

– Suck it up and weep geeks, IT is a commodity that doesn’t make that much of a difference, despite Microsoft’s agile business guff

– Financial services industry protects society’s morals and keeps up steady jihad against web-based filth peddlers. Or maybe like the Bank of Ireland CEO Mike Soden, they are reveling in the Victorian value of hypocrisy

Death of the UK Dance Music Industry?


Many record labels have closed down, particularly those owned by the majors like Strictly Rhythm and Credence. Cream runs festivals and restaurants rather than clubs and looks to Latin America and Eastern Europe for growth, Home is looking to be let out as retail space and the giant screen on the side of the building sits there in darkness

– Young people are listening to rock now, yes they are but they also have varied taste – which is why dance music festivals are doing well

– People want live music, the amount of live music venues in the UK dropped way below what it should have done and it is good to see it come back

– People want R&B, R&B has always been popular

– The dance music scene has stagnated, much of it has and UK record labels have been guilty of churning out more rubbish than most. The mash-up is a classic sign of creative bankruptcy in the industry and Hoxton’s tastes do not play well thoughout the rest of the UK. I cannot remember the last record I bought from a UK label, I suspect it was probably this time last year. I have however, kept buying imported records from the US and Europe

– US labels like Nervous, Guidance or even going back to Trax Records and DJ International, survived in a hostile home market by selling abroad, why can’t the UK labels

-US labels on the west coast are surviving an onslaught on to their scene by police using draconian crack house laws to shut the parties down and send organisers to jail for ten years, they are still making good music and selling records worldwide successfully

– Young people are drinking and not doing drugs: that’s why cocaine seizures are up, MDMA is plentiful and cheap

There are labels that are thriving: Defected is licensing American content from the likes of Miguel Migs. While there is much of the input like Junior Jack that is not my cup of tea you have to hand it Simon Dunmore that he is managing to walk the line between quality and commercial success for his label

AATW – all around the world. A label based in Blackburn, Lancs that realised what Pete Waterman discovered twenty years ago. You can run a record label on single sales. Like Pete Waterman the records are well produced tat that know their target market really well. They are down market and the listeners are disparaged as ‘Northern Pill Monkeys‘ by London based record executives, and their acts are criticised as ‘a plumber with a tired lap dancer’ but they are getting out there and buying the singles.

I personally don’t believe that you have to provide customers with a ‘crap’ product, that a well crafted one will sell, but you have to know your marketplace. Many of the tastemakers within the industry have lost sight of that and need to move on.

One person that seems to have it right (all be it on a small scale) is my friend Nick Lawrence’s label Altered Vibes that has gone from strength to strength by not compromising on quality and developing its artists. Something that is hard to do when the majors like EMI are dropping 30 per cent of their rostered artists in one fell swoop and putting less and less each year into development.