Social media in China
In 2009 Kantar Media, a global research company, published the results of a major survey asking people in Asia what media they trusted. The survey was conducted in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
The survey’s most significant finding was the fact 54 per cent of respondents said they trusted recommendations from friends and family, well ahead of a mere 14 per cent for television advertising.
Social media is about relationships and trust. People tend to become “friends” or “follow” individuals and companies they trust. The survey result has significant consequences for the broadcast industry because as audiences migrate to social media, it is logical that advertising will follow.
From February to April 2010 Ogilvy One China commissioned the China Polling Company to survey social media use in China. In July Chris Reitermann, Ogilvy’s president in Shanghai, said a “massive 83 per cent” of survey respondents claimed to have used a social media site.
Ogilvy concluded social media users’ greatest need was to find information about “frands” – brands that can be shared with friends. This was indicated in the title of the report they published – Frands: Friends, brands and social media in China. Users were also technically aware and affluent, with nine out of ten having accessed the Internet from their phone that week.
Reitermann concluded that social media was booming in China.
This is despite the fact the Chinese government blocks Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Google’s Gmail is also extremely slow. The ban has had the twin benefit of restricting Western influence and forcing Chinese people to embrace local products.
In Chinnovation, a book about innovation in China published in 2011, author Yinglan Tan noted that QQzone, the local equivalent of Facebook, had 450 million users in 2010 against about 550 million worldwide for Facebook. Perhaps more significantly, QQzone makes big money. That year the company had revenues of $US2 billion and profits of $US 1 billion.
Only people with the money and technical expertise can set up a virtual private network to access Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in China. This explains why Facebook has only about 600,000 members in mainland China.
China has a range of local versions of Twitter, the American micro-blogging site. It is called micro-blogging because people blog via a limited number of characters, typically 140. The best-known Chinese micro-blogs are Sina Weibo and Renren. A Report on Online Public Opinion published in March 2011 said China had about 180 million micro-bloggers by the end of 2010, and Sina Weibo claimed 50 million of them.
Media companies in China are appreciating the power of micro-blogging and have embraced it. In August 2010, 466 Chinese media houses had Sina Weibo accounts, the Report on Online Public Opinion said. Three months later the number had doubled to 939 accounts.
In November 2010, 49 government agencies and 237 police bureaus had Sina Weibo accounts, China Daily reported on its front page of 5 February 2011.
Politicians have become aware of the power of micro-blogs for connecting with audiences. On 23 February 2011, in the build-up to the March plenary session of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, People’s Daily reported that “hundreds of legislators and political advisers have opened micro blogs to solicit ideas”.
The Chinese equivalents of YouTube are Tudou and Youku. Thomas Crampton, Asia-Pacific director of Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence, said Chinese netizens used online video sites differently from Americans. “Rather than short videos of cute animals or silly domestic mishaps that may be popular among YouTube watchers, Youku and Tudou are filled with longer form content, up to 70 per cent of which is professionally produced,” he wrote in China Business Review.
Chinese viewers watch up to an hour a day of Tudou and Youku, compared with about 15 minutes Americans spend on YouTube.
Blogs have also blossomed in China. The National Report on Micro Blogs said Baidu Space had 100 million registered users in 2010. Baidu Space is the blog section of the Baidu search engine, which has more than 80 per cent of the search traffic in China (remember Google departed the Chinese market).
Earlier this year Baidu became China’s largest Internet company. Forbes listed chief executive Robin Li as the richest person in China.
Social media and e-commerce are inevitably linked in China. China’s e-commerce market was worth $79.9 billion in 2010, more than double the previous year, the China Internet Network Information Center reported.
Broadcasters seeking links in China need to understand the significance of social media.
* This article appeared in The Channel, the magazine of the Association for International Broadcasting, under the headline “Social media in China ” in September 2011, page 52.
Article about mobile journalism
This is a story how a pair of burning trousers inspired a broadcast revolution.
In 2004 Gary Symons was covering a forest fire in rural Canada for CBC, lugging the heavy pack of equipment needed to be a mobile journalist. His pack snagged a tree and he fell 20 metres down a hill. His equipment scattered.
As he rescued his gear in the burning undergrowth his pants caught fire. “That was my Eureka day,” said Symons. “I learned, one, that I needed fireproof pants and, two, I needed a better mobile kit.”
The latter led to the creation of VeriCorder Technology, a start-up that puts a television studio in the palm of your hand. Vericorder started by creating newsgathering apps for iPhone and Android phones that allow people to shoot, edit and package on the phone.
In May this year (2011) Vericorder released its mobile integration management system (MIMS). The system allows media organisations to create, collect and broadcast video content from mobile sources anywhere in the world.
Media houses could have their reporters edit and file on-the-spot video stories or they could tap into Vericorder’s user base to find freelancers and citizen journalists around the world for video content. The beta version of the users’ database, Findstringers, went online in September 2010. The full version became available in April (2011).
Around the world we are seeing a revolution in the way journalists gather and deliver news. The mobile journalist, often abbreviated as a mojo, can report from anywhere with a cell phone provided they have a reliable 3G connection or wifi.
History shows that journalists adopt new technologies for newsgathering if those tools are easy to use, if they enhance the storytelling process, and if they accelerate the gathering of news. The reverse also applies: Reporters will reject newsgathering technologies if those tools are too complicated to use.
Journalists will not waste time with complex technologies. The constant tick of the clock makes editorial staff aware of deadlines, and those deadlines have increased in number with the advent of the 24/7 newsroom. All of the technologies journalism has embraced since the telegraph from the 1860s have reflected the twin desires for speed and increased efficiencies.
Vericorder technologies currently work only with the iPhone and Android operating systems. Technology from Proskope in the Netherlands that works with the Symbian operating system – think Nokia and Sony-Ericsson – was discussed in an earlier edition of this magazine.
Mojos attract their share of nay-sayers. The detractors usually point to the poor quality of images and the lack of depth of field. Recent events suggest these objectors might have to re-think their objections.
South Korean director Park Chan-wook shot his latest movie Paranmanjang almost exclusively on an iPhone. It was released on 27 January 2011. Park’s revenge epic Old Boy won the Grand Prix at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2004 and his 2009 movie Thirst won the Jury Prize at Cannes.
The 30-minute Paranmanjang was mostly shot in black-and-white using up to eight iPhones. It cost $130,000 and was funded by iPhone’s South Korean distributor. Park champions cellphones as a cheap filmmaking tool. “You don’t even need sophisticated lighting. Just go out and make movies,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “These days, if you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to make a film.”
The biggest difficulties mojos encounter are getting the story back to the newsroom from the field, and the fact that mojo work gobbles up batter power. Mojos need to know where to find free or cheap wifi networks for those occasions when a 3G network is not available. Vericorder technology takes care of the network issues. And seasoned mojos always ensure they have plenty of battery chargers.
In 2008 I pioneered mojo in Australia, working for the Geelong Advertiser. At one news conference in September that year officials said individual interviews would not be available. I approached the talent, introduced myself, and streamed a video interview live to the newspaper’s web site. It was an exclusive. The discreet nature of mojo is one of its main attractions.
In March and April 2011 Ivo Burum trained indigenous mojos in the northern regions of Australia for the Australian government. Burum is a former executive producer with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The mojos’ work can be seen at http://ntmojos.indigenous.gov.au/
Apart from Vericorder apps, here are some of the iPhone apps I use when working as a mojo.
In Australia an app called Laptop Cafes was great for finding restaurants and cafes with free wifi. Starbucks and McDonalds are usually reliable places for wifi, as are some restaurants, and university and school campuses.
Another way to control access to wifi is to buy a portable wfi router. I have tested a D-Link myPocket router (DIR-457) that costs $200. You need to pay for the data loaded on the router via a SIM card.
If you have access to Ethernet you can buy Apple AirPort devices for between $100 and $400 that connect to an Ethernet cable. These devices create a wifi bubble of about three metres, and can sustain several connections. It is best to password protect these devices to stop people from feeding off your free (to them) wifi.
A metal device called an OWLE Bubo improves the quality of video or stills and the mojo reporting package (available online) includes a small microphone. You can watch a review here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ndXyV3FIP0
Other ways to ensure stable images is through a range of tripods such as the Gorillapod, the Glif and the Handgrip.
For breaking news I use the free Dragon Dictation app for quick bites of text. Once trained to my voice, the app allows me to dictate a breaking news story and then watch as the software transcribe the words. I then email or SMS the news brief to the newsroom.
A free app called AudioBoo lets me podcast from my iPhone (it also works with Android phones). Touch the record button, conduct the interview, and send the sound file to a dedicated AudioBoo site within seconds of completing the interview.
A more professional way to do this, which allows you to edit sound on your iPhone, is with Vericorder’s VC Audio Pro app. It costs $6 and offers broadcast quality audio. In April 2010 I worked with student mojos at the University of Missouri’s journalism program in the US. Erica Zucco and Brian Pellot covered local government elections for the NPR affiliate while I was there. The news director told me the audio from Audio Pro was as good as that obtained from traditional digital recorders. One way to improve audio is to plug a broadcast quality microphone into the iPhone’s audio jack.
Zucco and Pellot wrote a report for their university comparing the time it would take to shoot, edit and produce a one-minute multi-media slideshow using an iPhone against traditional methods. For the traditional report they used a Marantz digital recorder, a Nikon D70 camera, and Cool Edit Pro and Soundslides software. For the mobile reporting approach they used Vericorder’s ShowCase app, an Owle Bubo case for the phone and a VeriCorder microphone. At 14 minutes and 25 seconds the mojo approach took about half the time for the traditional report (25:46). The mojo equipment also cost about a quarter of the cost of the traditional gear.
It would be fascinating to conduct a similar comparison of Vericorder’s First Video app against a traditional television news production team.
Various free or relatively cheap software packages available on the web let you stream video to the web almost live. Best known of these are Qik (www.qik.com), Bambuser (www.bambuser.com), Flixwagon (www.flixwagon.com) and Livestream (www.livestream.com).
I trialled these and others for a report the World Association of Newspapers published in July 2009 entitled “From backpack to pocket journalism”. The downside of using this free software is the fact the video goes to the software provider’s web site. If you have an exclusive the world can see it at the websites of those software companies.
All transfer files, but none provides a mobile editing platform. The best option is Vericorder’s First Video app for $10.
This app lets you record HD video on an iPhone 4 or iPod touch 4th generation, and shoot SD video on an iPhone 3GS. Both record CD quality audio. You edit the video on the screen of the phone with one video and two audio tracks.
Here is an example of HD video shot in Australia with an iPhone and put on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RNWyhG8c7M
A version of First Video is also available for the iPad. Symons described the app as the “most advanced mobile video editing solution on the market today”.
One possible approach is to have reporters gather news with iPhones, and a producer or editor cutting the pictures on the screen of an iPad. Compare this approach with the cost of an outside broadcast truck. The mojo method costs a fraction of the price.
Apps for mojo work
Other useful apps for reporting include Fluent News for monitoring news via RSS, LinkedIn for research, Wordpress for updating blogs, JotNot Pro for scanning documents, Business Card Reader for scanning business cards and AroundMe for locating things like petrol stations or cafes when on the road. I use Skype on my iPhone for most of my international phone calls, provided I have a reasonable wifi connection.
As of February this year (2011) the number of mobile phones had surged to 5.2 billion worldwide, effectively one for every adult on the planet who has access to a regular supply of electricity. More than half of those phones have a camera. This means potentially a pool of more than 2.5 billion reporters. Obviously not everyone will take photographs, but it means news organisations need to find ways to embrace those potential reporters.
A convergence of cheap technology, fast broadband and wireless networks, and a booming interest in citizen involvement in news could see a revolution in the way news is covered over the next decade.
To quote film director Park: “The technology changes so fast,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to be available next year?”
In April 2011 Vericorder also released software that allows small businesses to create television advertising. VeriTV and VeriLocal lets companies and businesses launch a hyper-local website, making it possible to insert low-cost advertising into news bulletins.
Vericorder’s CEO Symons said that unless newspapers and media chains could lower the cost of production to the same as that of individual bloggers, those media houses could not win. “What is now obvious,” Symons said, “is that the entire news industry is in a state of crisis. Individual bloggers armed with cellphones can produce content at a fraction of the cost of traditional broadcasters.
“At the same time, traditional advertising is fragmenting at an ever-increasing rate. The point of what we’re doing is to create a system that lowers that cost of production so it is virtually identical to that of the individual blogger … and at the same time, we are creating a new method of monetizing news networks that lets them take advantage of both national and very local advertisers. If we can lower the cost of production and administration, which is what VeriLocal does, then large media networks can survive in this new paradigm.”
Want to know more? Two Canadian journalism students, Ashley Rowe and Nick Wynja, used Vericorder software to make a video about how mojo worked at last year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbK_OrbKHLM
Vericorder will be showcasing their apps at this year’s IBC in Amsterdam and the Online News Association in Boston in September.
* Professor Stephen Quinn is head of the International Communications division at the University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo in China. Prior to becoming an academic Dr Quinn worked for two decades with some of the world’s premier news organisations. He has written the only book about mobile journalism, MOJO: Mobile Journalism in the Asian Region. The second edition appeared in early 2011. Professor Quinn blogs about mobile journalism at http://globalmojo.org/
* This article appeared in The Channel, the magazine of the Association for International Broadcasting, under the headline “Cool tools for the mojo” in September 2011, pages 42-44.
Wireless broadband in South Korea
In mid April 2007 a new wireless form of broadband known as WiBro will blanket South Korea. WiBro allows people to get multimedia content like movies wirelessly while travelling at 120kph, at download speeds most Australians could only dream of.
Korean transport engineers have trialled a train that travels at up to 300 kph. Jean Min, a senior executive with OhmyNews in Seoul, said trains and buses would be the best places to access WiBro because this form of wireless Internet was nomadic and everywhere. “You could sit in your seat and access the Net for three hours as you travel around the country. It will also be available in express buses.”
South Korea has been testing WiBro since the middle of last year. WiBro has upload speeds of at least 1 megabit a second. Download is even faster. “They have tested it for several months and are confident they can do it,” Min said.
South Korea has the world’s second-lowest broadband costs. Most people pay about $12 a month for speeds of at least 1 mbs. In many parts of Seoul, the capital, wireless broadband is free.
Meanwhile my home “broadband” service from Telstra costs five times that amount for download speeds about an eighth of what South Koreans get. Often my speeds are as low as 30 kps, about the same speed as dial-up at the turn of the century.
In terms of broadband, Australia runs the risk of being left behind, complacently “releaxed and comfortable” while our Asian neighbours race ahead.
South Korea’s broadband applies across the country, not just in the major cities. About 50.6 million people live in an area of 99,313 square kilometers, so the country is small enough to cover easily.
South Korea has achieved remarkable growth since the 1960s. The economy was impoverished and rural when the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. Much of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed during the Korean War from 1950-53. By 1960 South Korea’s per capita GDP lagged behind countries like Zambia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
But since then, sustained high economic growth has transformed the country into a highly industrial and internationally competitive economy. Measured by GDP, South Korea was in the top 10 economies in the world in 2006. Earlier this year the Economist Intelligence Unit predicted Japan and South Korea would have identical GDP per head by 2050.
Suk Hoick, president of Korea’s Information Society Development Institute, said information and communication technologies contributed 16.1 per cent of GDP last year. By early 2007, 85 per cent of households had broadband, the highest number of broadband connections per capita in the world. The country was an early adopter of “triple play” models that provide cable television, broadband Internet and voice telephony as a package from a single provider.
The South Korean government is committed to transitioning the country to digital terrestrial, digital cable and digital satellite TV by 2010. Indeed, the government has promised a robot to every household by 2010. The robot would advise about expired food in the fridge, monitor electricity consumption and vacuum the floor.
South Korea is considered a world leader in third generation (3G) mobile technology. It has the world’s highest percentage of mobile users with 3G phones. WCDMA, the second 3G standard to enter the Korean market after CMDA2000, became commercially available in December 2003.
Because of the high penetration of mobile telephones and digital technology, South Korea has become a hothouse for infrastructure developments. It sits at the “bleeding edge” of the digital revolution, acting as a trailblazer for high-speed and wireless Internet services. The country has also pioneered the distribution of television via mobile devices. Online gaming is a national passion.
More than 95 per cent of people aged 6 to 29 regularly go online, compared with 86.4 per cent of people in their thirties, 58.3 per cent of people in their forties and 27.6 per cent of those in their fifties.
Many of the country’s newspapers are looking at providing multimedia through Internet protocol television (IPTV) via the web.
Jean Min said OhmyNews used live web-casting extensively. “We use wireless modems that allow us to video-cast from anywhere. That kind of content is very popular with our audiences. Whenever there is a big event we send a camera. When reporters walk around the streets of Seoul they can access high-speed Internet from anywhere. Uploading and downloading web video is easy for us. Live webcam TV is one of the killer applications for getting people glued to our screen.”
Dr Eugene Pak, vice-president in charge of the chief technology office at Samsung Electronics, has the enviable job of focusing on the future. He is fond of quoting his CEO, Lee Byung-Woo: “The future is not to be predicted; it is to be created.”
Samsung’s revenues last year were $US 55.3 billion, with profits of $US 7.5 billion. It invested $US 6.01billion last year in research and development, about 9 per cent of revenue.
The company employs more than 36,000 people in its 16 R&D centres around world, including 3,100 PhDs. To put the number of doctorates in perspective, that is more than the number at Korea University, and more than the total number of Victorian academics with doctorates.
The main research unit is the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, SAIT. Dr Pak said one of the latest developments to come out of SAIT was a bio-chip used to monitor people’s health. An individual puts a drop of their blood on this chip, which gives an analysis of their overall health.
Samsung has been experimenting with building smart apartment blocks that allow residents to turn on their stove via their mobile phone as they journey home. Technology known as Amoled could produce a new form of flexible display technology that is able to be rolled like paper.
Samsung has experimented with the use of radio frequency identification (rfid) tags placed on food in the fridge, which advises residents when food is past its use-by date. Tages have also been put in taxis. The tag reads an individual’s mobile phone number when they enter the taxi, recording the location. “Think of the applications for ensuring the safety of individuals at night,” Dr Pak said.
The IT megatrends for the second half of this decade would include digital convergence leading to network convergence (think a blending of telecoms with broadcasting and wireless devices), leading to high levels of personalisation. “We will see the emergence of all-in-one phone handsets,” Dr Pak said.
Samsung staff refer often to Hwang’s law, named after a vice-president for research and echoing the famous Moore’s law that says that memory capacity doubles every 18 to 24 months. “Hwang’s law at Samsung means we double the capacity of flash memory each year,” Dr Pak said.
But all is not perfect in this technology wonder-world. South Korea’s birth rates are low by world standards. The fertility rate in 2005 was 1.08 child per woman compared with 4.53 a generation earlier.
Dr Woo Cheonsik, senior counsellor to South Korea’s deputy prime minister for economic affairs, said slow population growth was the country’s major concern. “A dramatic fall in fertility rates and longer life expectancies will soon make South Korea one of the most aged societies in the world,” he said. As with Australia’s ageing population, this has major long-term consequences for the economy.
* Published in The Age of April 2007
Think piece about e-readers
For a typical daily newspaper, only about 15 per cent of the total budget is spent on producing content. Distribution and printing account for at least 60 per cent of the cost of a daily newspaper.
So if media companies could find cheaper and simpler ways to distribute their content, more money could be spent on content.
Enter the e-reader. It is a mobile reading device designed primarily for storing and displaying digital documents. The best-known e-reader devices in 2009 were the Amazon Kindle, the iRex iLiad and the Sony Reader. They are used mostly for reading books, though some daily newspapers are available on them. Most are only available in the US and Europe.
Perhaps one third of one percent of the reading population of the United States owns an e-reader. Newspapers could provide each of their readers who had subscribed for more than two years an e-reader as recognition of loyalty. The e-reader could become a status symbol. Readers could keep the device while they continue to subscribe. This would reduce distribution and printing costs, though managers would need to do the sums to calculate when this approach became financially viable. A newspaper could negotiate a good price by buying e-readers in bulk.
The world’s largest newspaper printing plant, owned by News Corporation, started production in March 2008. Based in Broxbourne, north of London, it is larger than 20 football fields and can produce 3.2 million newspapers a night. That plant cost $US 917 million.
The cost of a printing press tends to be amortized over 30 years, so that means News Corporation will spend about $30.5 million a year on printing. By comparison, the cost of hosting a major web site that transfers several hundred gigabytes of data a day is negligible. Amazon’s huge server farms cost about $35,000 a year. Compared with printing on paper, distribution costs for online editions of newspapers are almost zero.
Analysts estimate it costs about $650 million a year to print and deliver The New York Times. As of April 2009 about 830,000 people had subscribed to the paper for more than two years. To give an e-reader to each of those subscribers, at $400 per device, would cost the Times about $332 million. These numbers are simplistic and it would cost money to close down the printing presses and dispose of the fleets of trucks and other distribution tools.
But for a media organization starting fresh, or looking for new business models, e-readers offer an option.
Early in 2009 the Hearst Corporation announced it would release an e-reader for newspapers some time in 2010. It would be American letter in size and weigh less than half a pound. In April 2009 News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch said his company was investing in a mobile device for reading newspapers on a screen. The project was in its early software development stages, and he provided few details.
In March 2009 Plastic Logic said it planned to release an un-named e-reader in January 2010. The Plastic Logic product will have a screen 10.7 inches diagonally (about 27cm) compared with the 6-inch (15cm) display of the Kindle. The Plastic Logic device would weigh about the same as the Kindle (10.3 ounces or 292 grams) because it will be made from plastic rather than glass and silicon. It will also be more robust and durable.
The e-readers on the market in 2009 were compact and personal, like a mobile phone, while the Hearst, News Corp and Plastic Logic versions are intended for newspapers. They are potentially attractive to audiences if newspapers can get the content and business model right. Hearst and its partners plan to sell the e-readers to publishers and take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The publishers will develop their own branding and payment models.
The devices have other selling points. They are perceived as being greener than newsprint. Don Carli, executive vice president of SustainCommWorld, and senior research fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Communication, said print had come to be seen as a wasteful and environmentally destructive “despite the fact that much of print media is based on comparatively benign and renewable materials”.
Companies like Kodak had faced the same challenge as newspapers in trying to decouple the business of capturing and preserving memories from the business of selling analog film photography and photo-finishing systems. Newspapers were likely to face similar problems trying to decouple newsgathering, journalism and advertising from production and delivery in print to delivery via e-readers, Carli said.
“The carbon cost of print will no longer be swept under the rug. It will soon have to appear on the balance sheets of advertisers, publishers and retailers. It will also appear in the price tags of goods and services. Business models that fail to recognize full lifecycle cost and value will be unlikely to succeed going forward. As we exit the global recession we will simultaneously be transitioning to a low carbon global economy that will change the meaning and value of waste and inefficiency,” Carli said.