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The Firehose

By 13 April 2010 8 Comments

Once, my morning routine was to brew coffee, grab the newspaper, fire up my nicotine intake system and browse the limited number of stories the editors of The Washington Post needed that day to pad the space between ads.

Things have changed. Now, the coffee is waiting, fresh ground-and-brewed by my digital machine. The cigarettes are gone, as is the Post. So is the sense of a leisurely start to the day because now I take the coffee to the computer and instantly feel like I have stepped in front of a firehose of information that blasts me into a state of acute attention deficit disorder.

The big problem is not that much of the information before me is worthless and repetitive — that, I can handle. The problem is that much of it is interesting and relevant to intellectual property, tech and telecom, issues in which I am professionally interested. I can go whole days working hard at taking in information while doing nothing productive with it. I also see far more that might be useful to Digital Society’s constituency than I can possibly convert into coherent commentary.

If I can’t solve the problem, at least I can share the pain. So this post inaugurates what will be a regular feature of my participation in this blog  — a series of links to information that caught my eye for some reason and that might interest the blog’s readers, with a line or two of explanation or quotation. No pretense of comprehensiveness or system is involved; the only rule is that The Firehose will usually avoid what is already bouncing around the mainstream media and the echo chamber of the Internet — no reviews of the iPad or discussions of the Comcast case, unless they are from off the beaten track.

My taste is for more obscure items, and especially for those for which the connection to IP and tech may not be immediately obvious. I will also sometimes refer to proprietary sources because much valuable information is not, and according to my values should not be, free.

Categories are rough, and there is a good bit of overlap.

Monetizing Content (especially news)

  • OnLine Media Daily, Newser To The Wrap: ‘We Don’t Owe You Squat’ (April 9): “In an escalation of a dispute between two online publishers, the entertainment site TheWrap.com has demanded that Michael Wolff’s aggregation service, Newser.com, stop summarizing TheWrap.com articles.” Here is the C&D letter.
  • The Guardian (UK), Rupert Murdoch defiant: ‘I’ll stop Google taking our news for nothing’ (April 7): Murdoch continues his crusade to make money from information.
  • RoughType (Nick Carr) explains the basic problem of any effort to make news production dependent on an advertising/pageviews model in Google in the Middle (April 9, 2009): “Look … at the number of stories on [a particular] topic that Google already has in its database: 11,264. That’s a staggeringly large number. To Google, it’s a beautiful number. To the 11,264 news sites competing for a measly little page view, and the infinitesimal fraction of a penny the view represents, it’s death.”
  • Barrons, in an analysis of Washington Post company stock, says: “We conservatively have assigned no value either to the Post newspaper, which lost $72 million last year from operations, or Newsweek, the dominant part of the magazine unit, which lost $29 million in 2009.“ Incredible, since the Post (despite my defection) must be the single-best newspaper franchise in the nation, even if The New Republic said, in Post Apocalypse: Inside the Messy Collapse of a Great Newspaper (Jan. 19), that “in a new era for journalism, The Washington Post has yet to figure out what it wants to be. The result has been a lot of lurching — some of it (like salongate) embarrassing, much of it merely ineffective, but almost all of it suggesting a newspaper in disarray.” Meanwhile, TNR itself is moving toward a subscription model.
  • Media Consortium, The Big Thaw: charting a new future for journalism (July 2009) – a multivolume report: “The Media Consortium (TMC), a network of the country’s leading progressive, independent media outlets, commissioned this research and strategy project because we want to lead our members and other independent media outlets into a new era of sustainable and powerful journalism.” No warranties, since I have not yet read it, but it looks to have some interesting material.
  • Center for Media Research, Research Brief. Behaviorally Targeted Ads Yield Twice The Revenue and Twice the Converts (April 7): “According to The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), behaviorally targeted advertising in 2009 secured an average of 2.68 times as much revenue per ad as non-targeted ‘run of network’ advertising. The study also found that behaviorally targeted advertising is more than twice as effective at converting users who click on the ads into buyer(6.8% conversion vs. 2.8% for run-of-network ads), and that behavioral advertising accounted for approximately 18% of advertising revenue.”  Economist Howard Beales, who conducted the study, notes that ” … behaviorally targeted advertising is a critical component of ad network, publisher, and advertiser success … significantly enhancing the advertising revenue engine driving the growth of the Internet.” [NB: I knew Howard years ago, in the FTC. Very good economist.]

The Net

  • After Oracle bought his company, Sun CEO Jonathan Schartz announced his resignation via a tweeted haiku. (Thanks to CCIA.) His message:

    Today’s my last day at Sun. I’ll miss it. Seems only fitting to end on a haiku:
    Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more

  • Tim Wu, arch deacon (or devil) of net neutrality, thinks we should look back to the railroad era for Internet regulatory models in a comment filed in the FCC’s net neutrality proceeding.  I argued along similar lines in Avoiding a Tech Train Wreck in 2008, so I think the fundamental point is valid. But he jumps too quickly to conclusions about the implications of the railroad experience for current policy. My view was and is:  “These regulatory regimes failed in many ways, and the great deregulation movement was immensely important. But the people who put the regimes in place were not stupid. We should look at their regulatory solutions as a natural experiment that did not quite work and develop a new synthesis that incorporates the merits of both laissez-faire thesis and regulatory antithesis.”

    And as Internet expert Pierre de Vriess e-mailed me recently, “[I have been] reading McCraw’s ‘Prophets of Regulation’, [and] I was particularly taken with [his] conclusion that the necessary and appropriate regulation is a function of the business structure of the relevant industry; as he tells it, the fundamental flaw in airline regulation (before Fred Kahn) was that legislators treated it like a railroad. The lesson I took was that I have to get a better understanding of the Internet’s business structure before I can have an opinion on what kind of regulation (if any) is required where.”

  • RoughType worries about the effect of the Internet on our brains in The RealTime Chronicles (series)
  • The American editor Nick Schulz advocates that we move Toward Humility About the Future of the Internet (April 12): “[T]he dynamic nature of the Internet — the fact that it changes often, is unpredictable, and grows in unanticipated ways — should push Internet pundits toward some analytical humility about the way it might evolve in the future.”
  • Regulation, Network Neutrality or Internet Innovation (Spring): Christopher Yoo says “Granting network providers pricing flexibility should reduce the costs borne by consumers.”

Copyright Law

Apple’s new iPhone license

  • Tech Crunch, Apple Gives Adobe The Finger With Its New iPhone SDK Agreement (April 8): “Apple released a new beta SDK to developers, complete with a new developer license agreement. And nestled in that agreement is a passage that may have major implications for developers, and disastrous consequences for Adobe’s latest release of Flash.”
  • Ars Technica, Apple takes aim at Adobe … or Android? (April 10): “[T]he harm done to Android could end up being even more substantial than the harm to Adobe.”
  • ZDNet, Adobe, Choose Your Allies in the Apple War (April 10): “Adobe is headed for a full-fledged war with Apple. Who they choose as their strategic Allies will determine if the company can emerge from the conflict victorious.”

Medical Innovation, Health Care & the Internet


  • Li & Fung Research Center, What Do the Experts Say? The Ten Highlights of China’s Commercial Sector, 2009-2010: China is recognizing the need for IP protection to protect brand quality: “Hoping for return of glory days: China’s numerous heritage brands are rejuvenated” (pp.34-36).
  • Five Books, China in the World economy (Jan. 28): “Asia’s seemingly ‘new’ importance has puzzled and even frightened non-Asian societies. We have the obligation to inform all citizens of the globe that Asia’s (and China’s) recent miracle growth did not come from nowhere.”
  • Shanghai Daily, Sanofi opens Chinese R&D center (April 7): PhRMA President Billy Tauzin likes to remind lawmakers that other nations love his industry and would be delighted to have it relocate from the U.S. They do not listen much, but they should. If R&D moves offshore, the United States will be in even bigger trouble than it already is. Cross reference to the Brailer talk, linked above.
  • Financial Times (proprietary), Nokia in Chinese download battle (April 8): “Nokia on Thursday stepped up its battle for a share of the online music market when it launched a new service that will allow Chinese customers to download unlimited amounts of music on to their mobile phones. The service will involve fewer restrictions on downloads than elsewhere in the world, signaling an attempt to lure Chinese consumers, who have grown used to receiving pirated music for free.” The idea that music should be free has deep root; it looks like content owners are giving up and trying to harvest whatever they can from past works on the theory that something is better than zero.