Energetic Feedback

Last week’s column got me the most energetic feedback – so far. Some dislike what they call my negativism, my being a non-believer in a bright future for new energies, others think I’m wrong to call the electric car an out-of-reach dream.  Look at ethanol, a green replacement for Foreign Oil, look at the Tesla, right in my Silicon Valley backyard.  Add a few ad hominem barbs and the picture is complete.
This is understandable.  The general topic of new energies, of our dependence on foreign oil, of lowering CO2 emissions, of replacing today’s gas-guzzling vehicles with electric ones is loaded with strong emotions.  One doesn’t have to be a climate scientist to worry about the effects of dumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.  Some of us criticize China for burning more coal than the US, Europe and Japan combined in its 541 coal-fired power plants.  Sure, but how do we convince the Chinese they shouldn’t aspire to the same level of electric power consumption as ours?  And India and Indonesia…  Add oil prices rising to $145 a barrel before falling below $40.  Both climate and economic ruin threaten us. More

2000-2015: the parallel stories of two modern newspapers — Part II

[Previously]  — The Journal and The Chronicle. Two good national newspapers. Different management styles, different backgrounds, different ways for handling the digital era. For both, 2008 proved to be a tough challenge (Part I is here). Unfortunately, all we’ll soon see, 2008 was comparatively easy.

2009-2015 — Near-death experiences (and experiments)

January 2009 — At the Journal, a quick situation assessment:
No surprise, here. It’s bleak: for the entire year, advertising revenue is down 19% for print and copy sales revenue dropped by 4%. Overall, print revenue is down by 15%. Online revenue grew by 13%, but since it represents slightly less than a quarter of the total operations, the entire company revenue is down by 10%. Profit is gone. The group is in the red, its core business bleeding and no immediate improvement in sight. More

Energy: Dreams and Realities

More good news this week: On January 20th, 2009, reality will re-enter the White House. As a Silicon Valley type, by reality I mean technology, science, you know, facts.  We’re happy to see a real scientist as our next Energy Secretary, for example.  Obama just appointed a Physics Nobel Prize winner, Steve Chu, to the post.  Before running the Lawrence Livermore Labs, as he does today, the gentleman used to be a Stanford University professor.  This is reassuring. More

2000-2015: the parallel stories of two modern newspapers

This two-part article spins the tale of two modern newspapers and their challenges over a 15-year period: the advent of digital media, an eroding readership, with a horrendous recession dramatically accelerating changes. This is a story of mistakes, beliefs, learning the hard way, and making hard and daring decisions at critical times. These two papers, The Journal and The Chronicle, fictional titles, are composites drawn from years of observations in France, the United States, and Scandinavia. Looking for similarities with actual entities, or attempting to judge who’s smart and who’s really daft is beside the point.  This is a story of people and corporations all trying to make do with what they have: brains, culture, and historical assets. More

The Web of Objects

For more than two decades, we’ve seen a succession of attempts to “connect everything”. One of the real fathers of the Internet, not Al Gore but Vint Cerf, once graced the cover of a geek magazine wearing a t-shirt with the now famous slogan: IP on Everything.
He was and is right.  The destiny of every meaningful object in our lives is to have sensors, actuators some time, and always an IP stack for wired or wireless communication. Destiny is the operative word here, because we haven’t made as much progress as we hoped.  In 1986, Mike Markkula, one of Apple’s early backers and leaders, started Echelon.  The idea was to make chips so small and inexpensive they’d be everywhere, even inside a light bulb socket.  Thus, using the electric wires as the network, the Echelon chip would monitor the lamp and report the condition (healthy or soon to fail) of its filament, for example.  Same idea for industrial or home furnaces, security systems, meter reading and the like.  Here and there, we see experiments but no broad use, not in the sense of personal computers, WiFi, cell phones or GPS units. More

Light at the end of the pure player tunnel
(it’s not a locomotive)

As the newspaper industry is unraveling at frightening speed, something is emerging on the pure player front, something that could (I’m being cautious) lead to the seeds of a business model.

But, before going any further, I want to make sure readers of the Monday Note have fully abandoned all hope for any turnaround whatsoever in newspaper business. Let’s face it: our beloved trade is spiraling down. We’ll see many fatalities and, of course, a few survivors. Latest headlines: The Miami Herald (good regional paper, solid journalism with 19 Pulitzer Prizes, strong readership) is said to be for sale by its owner, the McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper publisher in the US. With a $2bn debt load and a market cap down by 97% since 2005, McClatchy has no choice but to unload its most precious asset (one that is still making little money, btw). E.W. Scripps has put another big regional paper on the block: The Rocky Mountain News ($11m loss in 9 months). For these two good papers: no bidder in sight. More

What’s good for General Motors…

Fair or not, we Silicon Valley types maintain a low opinion of ‘Washington’, as in Congress and the Executive, the Federal Government.  The Bush years haven’t helped with a long list of offenses against liberties, science, fiscal prudence and just plain decency.  And, just when we thought we’d hit bottom, we reach a new nadir.  I’m referring to the shameful spectacle of our solons, civil (self-) servants and Detroit executives all haggling over the why, how much, when and how of the US auto industry bailout. More

Journalism : Crowd reporting rises – bizmodel stays flat

I began catching up with events in Mumbai Wednesday at 1:00am in a Kiev hotel room. I started with frenzied remote control shuttling between CNN and  SkyNews (no BBC world, which I prefer). The same stuff everywhere. Fuzzy footage of the carnage, so-called experts on the phone with the host, etc. At the same time, I turned to my laptop and logged on to the New York Times. A little better: fresh stories, frequent updates. Same for a couple of French sites. More

The (All Too) Convenient Invisible Hand

Remember Adam Smith, the man who coined The Market’s Invisible Hand phrase, the author of The Wealth of Nations? He gave rise or, rather, a voice to a philosophy of laissez-faire, of as little government intervention as possible.  In his view, the forces in presence, buyers and sellers, producers and consumers would always end up in balance benefiting everyone.  Prices too high? Competitors see an opportunity, customers go elsewhere, prices come down.  Consumers consume less?  Prices come down, demand restarts.  That, in an admittedly simplistic rendition, is what became known as the Invisible Hand keeping things in balance.  But there was/is another idea behind this: Government is inherently dangerous, once it acquires power, it won’t let go, it will oppress the very people its was supposed to serve.  America’s Founding Fathers remembered Pilgrims and their flight from an oppressive king.  And, in the 20th century, Friedrich von Hayek wrote the Road to Serfdom, describing and predicting (the book was written between 1940 and 1943) the ills of centrally planned economies. More

Spécial Etats-Généraux de la Presse Ecrite

(To the usual readers of the Monday Note: this is a special entry compiling notes and links relevant to the consultation held by the French government about the future of the press — hence the French language).

Articles et liens en relation
avec les discussions du groupe “Presse & Internet”

Voici une liste d’articles parus dans la Monday Note, une lettre d’information (gratuite) qui traite des médias dans le monde et de l’évolution de leur business model. Cette sélection a été faite d’après les sujets abordés lors des Etats Généraux de la presse écrite. More