Last week’s dismissal of Healthcare as one of the subjects to watch in 2009 was met with strong retorts. Difficult, confusing, fraught with ideology, demagoguery, logomachies, it doesn’t matter, readers write back.  This is the most important topic of all, without health, nothing else counts, look at how much of the GDP gets into healthcare. More

Blogging, a new journalistic genre ?

Over this new year, one of the most interesting developments on the Internet will be the continued evolution of blogging. Starting as little more than populist rants, blogging has already transcended its origins and grown into a fresh new journalistic genre, one that is likely to become the main engine of modern news sites. Two recent anecdotal observations lead me to this conclusion. More

Things to watch in 2009

No predictions, no forecast, that’s above my pay grade, just sifting through this coming year’s most interesting trends.  The Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times, being upon us, we might as well try and make the best of this New Year. More

Numbers to keep in mind

This article is part of an occasional serie featuring interesting raw data. Use the tag “numbers” to see the previous entries.
No predictions for this last 2008 issue. We all know what’s ahead: a difficult year, with double-digit drop in revenue for newspapers. A year that will see many news outlets simply wiped out. There will be opportunities, though. But for different types of organizations: smaller, leaner, and more agile. Flexibility will be a key factor. It will favor small companies or business units able to focus their reduced investment on what matters and cut the rest. Big organizations will stay absorbed in navel-gazing restructuring ruminations; their old-fashioned managements will keep forgetting that, even more in hard times than in good ones, speed is essential. We’ll come back with facts and figures next year. Today, I just want to offer interesting numbers, worth keeping in mind for the rough times ahead. More

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