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

Copyright at the era of digital journalism

Two recent experiences made me pick Copyright as this week’s topic. The first one took place ten days ago at the Monaco Media forum. Professor Lawrence Lessig delivered a compelling presentation covering the evolution of copyright. The second experience happened at a consultation on the future of the press held by the French government where I spoke to one of the working groups. More

Venture Capital in Bad Times

Here, meaning in Silicon Valley, we’re not waiting for Obama – even if we look forward to his injecting physical and psychological stimuli in our economy. A week ago, our President-elect was politely spinning the “there’s only one President” line, meaning he didn’t want to interfere with Bush’s struggle to right the ship.  But, this Saturday, Obama took over, of sorts, the traditional weekly presidential radio address, also carried on YouTube. Full text here.  This is the new régime: 2.5 million jobs to be created, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, energy, ecology.  The works, the public works.  There is an obvious message here: the situation is so bad and the Bush administration so lame (as in “lame duck”) that, presidential transition niceties be damned, I, Obama, must grab the bully pulpit – right now.  Congress must get to work on my plan without waiting for my January 2009 Inauguration. This makes good sense as well as good PR, we’ll see if Congress brings itself to follow with effective – and clean, no pork barrel — legislation. More