Friday, November 26

NewsBreak : Australian newspaper publisher first to scrape other's headlines?

Extraordinary news! Fairfax Digital, the online arm of one of Australia's two major newspaper publishers, has just launched a news aggregation site that scrapes the headlines from its own mastheads and those of others here and overseas. Called NewsBreak, the service is sure to raise a lot of eyebrows, and maybe they need to tweak the model a little more before it's really ready for primetime.

For instance, no more than a year ago, I was negotiating to pay for those same headlines from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the publishers of Newsbreak. I can't remember the rate they wanted to charge me, and I abandoned negotiations when it was clear it was unaffordable, but clearly someone out there was paying that much for them. Now, a year later, they're worth nothing. I suppose the prevalence of other sites - Google News, bloggers (including me) - scraping those headlines has eroded the value of headlines quite a bit, but still, it's a surprise to see the copyright owner engaging in the same activity, giving up the charade and admitting that headlines are worth only the ad impression and the pageview you get one someone clicks on the headline.

Also, Newsbreak doesn't limit itself to Fairfax publications, which is admirably realistic for a service that wants to be successful, but still, here's an Australian newspaper publisher, traditionally an inward-looking, incestuous, defensive, paranoid species of organisation, behaving like it's prepared to encourage its audience to consume news stories from rivals. When was the last time you saw a TV news anchor tell you to change channels to see more coverage of this story from a rival network? When was the last time a radio talk-back host encouraged you to listen to an alternative viewpoint on another radio station?

More astounding: the Newsbreak site even features stories from its arch-rival, The Australian (though not, it appears from the other arch-rival, the Daily Telegraph.) I know business development people working on those mastheads who are wandering around in a daze of confusion as I write this, expecting pigs to go flying past at any minute, this is such an extraordinary development. The About Us section of Newsbreak says that stories from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald will always appear above those from other publishers, but still, how long does it take to scan a list of headlines sorted by topic and click on the one with the most interesting/sensational headline?

Interestingly, most headlines these days are still written by newspaper subeditors looking to fit a headline to a space on the printed page - that constraint still limits their creativity. On a site built from scraped headlines, the copy in the headline is all-important. So even though their own stories will appear at the top, I'm betting the publisher with the most sensational headlines will get the most traffic from Newsbreak. And Rupert's subs are known for being more sensational than Fairfax's.

Finally (though this is sure to change soon) if you click on a scraped headline on the Newsbreak site, it doesn't open the story in a new browser window as you'd expect, leaving the Newsbreak site in the background. Instead it takes you to the news page in the same browser window, leaving you to use the back button in your browser toolbar to get back to Newsbreak. Of course, you could also click on a link on that news story and stay within the newspaper website you've just been kindly directed to by Newsbreak. And what are the scraped news publishers paying for all this free traffic from Newsbreak? Not a cent, I'm sure.

Surprises me and delights me most of all because I (and others) predicted this would happen to news publishing one day, but it's great to see it happen before I die!

Thursday, November 25

I want to smell like the world's largest 4WD passenger vehicle

I want Hummer - not the massive, inefficient, penis-enlargement-made-of-steel, 12MPG, fatal-to-pedestrians vehicle that lets every American pretend they're on active service in the Middle East.

Oh no, I want the fragrance. I want to smell like the great big 4WD death machine itself. I want to waft imperceptibly the subliminal pheromonal cues that mark me as a man not to be trifled with, a man who would get 12MPG and crush Daihatsu Charades under my enormous knobbly tires if they got in my way.

...Actually, I think this takes brand extension just one step too far. But if Ian Thorpe can help Giorgio Armani sell a men's fragrance that probably smells of chlorine and terrytowelling that's never quite been allowed to dry, then I suppose it's possible.

Monday, November 22

sally in BP

sally in BP
Originally uploaded by bigyahu.

There's nothing the ad sales team at ninemsn wouldn't do to help a client - Sally Millett has obviously agreed to model for her client's retail POS. I captured this on the T610's smudgy phonecam in BP Naremburn, so apologies for the lousy quality.

Hi Sal, love your work!

Friday, November 19

Trialling new software: Delicious Library

Delicious Library - on the surface, just another digital library program. Under the surface, one cool feature: promises to work with my Apple iSight camera, using it as a superfast bar-code scanner. Scan the bar-code on a book I own or a CD, and the program pulls down the product details from the internet and saves it locally. If it works, shouyld take less than an hour to create a library of the 300 or so books I have at home, and three hours to do my entire CD collection! I'll letcha know if it works as advertised.

Tuesday, November 16

Word of the day: "flatterjection"

My latest entry on pseudodictionary (the dictionary for words that wouldn't make it into dictionaries) is "flatterjection" - to flatter something or someone else while simultaneously rejecting their approach.

Down with registration for marketing purposes!

You probably already know about because it's such an Idea Whose Time Has Come (IWTHC) but in case you haven't, you should (am I making any sense?)

Bugmenot is the solution for all those websites that ask you to register before you can get anything useful from them, and your registration details are then used for marketing purposes. It's increasingly common with newspaper websites, for instance, to require you to register with them before you can read a news story.

I understand where newspapers are coming from, and they have every right to do so. Just as I have every right to use something that subverts their marketing data acquisition, like

It works like this: people submit user IDs and passwords that are valid for the sites they use (bugmenot already has IDs and passwords for 36,558 sites). Then, when you want to, say, read a news story that requires registration, instead of creating a new user ID and password, you flip to bugmenot (handy extensions for Firefox and IE make it simple). Enter the URL of the site and hit 'show logins' and Bugmenot displays user IDs and passwords you can use to login with, get the story you need, and get out again, all without leaving a trace for the marketers.


Thursday, November 11

Falluja's just a tragedy waiting to happen

Picture this: in some parallel universe, the US government sends in the Marines and US Army to take out a band of militant religious fanatics who have fortified a town in Utah with the support of the local population and religious leaders.

The Government allows the armed forces to use tanks, helicopter gunships, air-to-ground bombs and bomblets, missles, depleted-uranium shells, and psyops. They have no meaningful way to distinguish combatant from non-combatant and generally choose not to discriminate. Humanitarian aid and independent media are blocked from entry. Hospitals and medical centres become the first targets of bombing and mortar fire missions. No ceasefires are allowed for evacuation of non-combatants, women, children and wounded, or for the burial of the dead.

It would never happen, would it? How come it can be allowed to happen in Shatillah and now in Fallujah? Is everything justifiable in the US's holy war against Islam?

And yet despite the brutality, we're supposed to believe that we're the agents of freedom and tolerance, and they're supposed to be the religious fanatics?

Stop the war, I'm on the wrong side...

Tuesday, November 9

It takes 250k rat brain neurons to fly a plane...

CNN reports that a Florida team have taught a 'brain in a dish' to fly a flight simulator. The brain in question is a collection of only 250,000 rat neurons, dropped in a support solution and left to reconnect themselves.

Have to say, I know a few commercial pilots, and if you ask me, the job can probably done with only 150,000 rat brain neurons. I wonder what the other 100,000 neurons were doing? Planning to chat up flight attendants at the next stop? Managing the sharemarket portfolio? Ringing home?

"Hi Mom! It's me! Hey, I got that new job I told you about! Yep, no more running around the maze and pushing the buttons to eat for me! And I get a uniform and a briefcase! No Ma, I can't carry the briefcase, but it makes a great place to sleep, especially after I've chewn up the uniform and stuffed some of it in there. And I think I can probably sneak the whole family into the cargo hold and we can all go to Florida this year..."

So, how many rat brain neurons do you think it might take to replicate these popular job functions? (Put your entries in the comments field below):

  • Marketing manager

  • Publicist

  • Politician

  • News anchor

  • Toll-booth operator

Microsoft has done nothing wrong!

Microsoft announced it has settled a suit with Novell over antitrust behaviour and agreed to pay them $536 million, so that Novell will pull out of an EU-sponsored action against Microsoft. This still leaves unsettled another Novell antitrust action against Microsoft with unspecified damages.

In recent history Microsoft agreed to pay Sun $700 million to resolve antitrust issues and $900 million to resolve patent issues over the next ten years, and in another case, agreed to pay $750 million to Time Warner (AOL) to get them onside.

But has Microsoft done anything wrong? Nooooooo... It's paid out a total $2.9 billion dollars to its competitors to gain their compliance, but it's done absoLUTEly nothing wrong.

Saturday, November 6

The commies are red, you fools!

I have no respect for the world's most powerful nation if it can't even
get its colours straight. Watching the US TV coverage of the election
on cable, I realised all the US networks use red to indicate states
where the Republican party has a lead, and blue to show Democrat
states. That's ass-backwards, you fools! Everywhere else in the world,
the left is red and the right is blue! No wonder you drive on the wrong
side of the road, persist in using imperial units of measurement and
run the shoddiest election processes known to western democracy!

Friday, November 5

Bush for President!

...of Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Palestine, the Balkan states - any
of the nations he's already worked so hard to improve in the last
decade. And either Cheney or Rumsfield to be Minister of Health and
Education of whichever state Bush chooses to be President in - they can
fight amongst each other for the role. No biting, boys!

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