CDs vs downloads: Aiming to bridge the digital divide (26th March 2006)

Today’s Sunday Business Post features and article I wrote on the online music market, You can view the piece on their site here.

The article is connected to a recent post on my blog in relation to the pre-order campaign for Pearl Jam‘s upcoming album; people who preorder the CD on their site will be able to download the entire album on the day of release and will also recieve the physical CD in the post. To me this is a clever mixture of both types of online purchase and one that solves the problems each presents. It’s an idea that could be adopted by other bands and labels in the future too.

Blogging the election (Irish Times – 21st March 2006)

Apologies for the delay in putting this piece up, I’ve been knocked for six over the last few days and am just getting myself back on track.

Below is my piece which featured in The Irish Times on Tuesday 21st of March; it is an interview with Cian O’Flaherty of Irishelection.com. The article was teamed with a piece on the importance of blogging in the 2007 Irish election by Liam Reid, political reporter for The IT; his piece follows my own below.

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Irishelection.com in the Irish Times

Todays (Tuesday 21st March) Irish Times features a large piece on blogging in the upcoming Irish Election.

As part of the feature I interviewed Cian O’Flaherty of Irishelection.com about his new site, what its goal is and what role he sees it playing come May 2007.

The piece is available to view here (subs required). I’ll post the text of it at some point tonight.

Congratulations Cian and Co.; the articles published today show a rising trend in mainstream interest in blogging. This can only be good things for the Irish blogosphere which is currently enjoying a boom across the board.

Anti-social media

Piaras has posted a great blog which details a fresh debate that social media must face; privacy.

Extremely popular sites like Bebo are fitting in perfectly with the snap-happy culture that digital and picture phones have created. While a well placed and adequately equiped bystander is a great tool of Citizen journalism in newsworthy situations on an actual social level they do become mini-paparrazi. People taking pictures of you when you let your hair down is nothing new, and it is never generally a problem but when those pictures are going to be shared with a potentially massive audience, often with people you don’t know, is it really no worse than before? How many pictures do you or your friends have of you that you’d consider funny, that feature you in a drunken-state or that highlight some bizarre obsession you have with traffic signs? Now, how many of these would you like to make available to your current or potential employers to view?

Besides the privacy implications of sites like Bebo there is also a potential for so-called social media to undermine traditional social values without really replacing them. Traditionally stories and anecdotes are often suplimented by the odd photograph but this is changing. Nowadays most modern mobile phones come with multi-megapixel digital cameras, some with built in flashes and movie and audio record capabilities. Hooking these devices to a PC is simple and by their nature camera phones allow people to take more pictures as there are no “consumables” such as film. All this adds up to the fact thats someone with a decent phone could film and/or photograph you and have the files online minutes after they got home. Piaras is right, the privacy infringements are certainly an issue that needs to be addressed but it has no obvious and workable solution to me at the moment.

The social implications, however, mean that there may be less and less to chat about, remember or discuss; why bother when we can just watch it over online if we need reminding or clarification? Is the growing trend of constant visual documentation going to be the death-knell of the anecdote?
God forbid we ever see a day when you ask a friend “how was your night?” and they respond with a URL.

All wrapped up in a neat little package?

Northern Ireland, when is it ever? Then again, God loves those who try.
Bertie Ahern stated yesterday that the new plan for devolved government would be announced in “around three weeks time”. Considering that this blueprint is being billed as the ‘take it or leave it’ offer, is it possible that the two governments are hoping to have a definite direction made clear by the 14th of April, 8 years on from the historic Good Friday Agreement?

Of course, regardless of the reaction amongst Nationalist and Unionist parties there will still be a long way to go and plenty of obstacles but judging by similar statements before us, Bertie and Blair won’t be waiting for a reply. All Northern politicians hate to sit on a decision; it gives the impression that they haven’t made their minds up or are considering a softening of tone. So if the three week prediction is accurate we will know by the 14th if the decisions of Northern Ireland will be made on a local (MLA) level or a more international (Irish/British government) level.

Times like these in Northern Ireland politics are the most fascinating. All parties are sure to have their minimum demands in their heads, even if they are a little more reasonable than their public ones. All parties surely understand the finality of this offer too and the possible fallout if they give it the thumbs down.
Should the blueprint get rejected it will be interesting to see joint Irish/British rule in action; while neither government is likely to push for big change it is sure to raise eyebrows, questions and complaints. One point of note is that even with the threat of direct Irish influence looming the DUP and UUP have failed to kick up a fuss. Brian Feeney sees this as Unionist acceptance that there is no RoI plot to grab the six counties when everyone’s not looking; it seems to me that the DUP have realised who their real enemy is, and they aren’t members of our cabinet.

Merging digital and physical music

One of the greatest challenges facing all modern media is that buzzword “convergence”; it’s usually used to describe a product that is a bit of everything, a TV, radio, phone, computer, video and audio recorder etc. It would suggest that a concept has been merged with another to deliver the perks of both in one handy package. The reason why this type of challenge faces the modern media is simple, how does traditional media link with its digital counterpart (or rival?) to deliver a supreme product to the consumer?

As I’ve suggested before, radio stations should consider offering un-broadcast extra’s in podcast form rather than just the same show as is available on FM. This could be good content that was dropped due to time constraints (or even censorship fears). Newspapers should consider offering downloadable content or web-only information too. This could be, again, content that was dropped due to space constraints. It could be a piece of music or film which is linked to a review or it could be online sources. But what about the music industry?

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The latest trial by media

On-going developments in the Rachel O’Reilly case have created another trial by media in Ireland.

Tuesday, 14th of March saw a man being arrested in connection to the murder. The man, who had been arrested before, was later released without charge. The man’s girlfriend is currently being questioned in relation to the case also.
RTÉ put the arrests down to new CCTV and phone-record based evidence which contradicts statements given by the two in the past.

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The Irish Times, the Dublin riots and me

In the aftermath of the violence in Dublin at the end of February I wrote a piece in relation to the riots and social media. It was mildy critical of RTÉ and full of praise for Irish bloggers. In all the piece heralded the first victory for the rising Social Media scene in Ireland.

As a budding journalist I hoped that this piece would find a home in either The Irish Times or The Sunday Business Post. I was happy with the finished article and sent it on to both publications. After some e-mails back and forth I discovered that the Marketing and Media editor of the SBP was away until the 13th of March and wouldn’t able to consider unsolicited articles until then; just my luck. The Irish Times politely responded to my submission and informed me that they were currently working on a similar piece, but were thankful for the time I had taken. Admittedly I have been unable to follow the Irish Times as I would have liked to since then but I have yet to come across the article that has been in the works for so long.

Today, as part of an article (transcribed here) in relation to the Irish Blog Awards, I find this:

Many of the first reports and images of the Dublin riots of last month appeared on blogs.

That line is amongst a short summary of what a blog is. That’s it.
So did The Irish Times neglect to report on one of Irish bloggings most important developments (besides the Awards!)? Did they neglect to criticise RTÉ for their terrible coverage? Unless I’ve missed something, yes they have.

Had they e-mailed me back and said “we have no interest in your piece for reasons x, y and z” I would have been more appreciative. I’m not going to claim that my piece was superb and they were idiots not to print it; I just think they were foolish not to cover the subject at all. As a result of the reply they did give me I was left waiting with interest to see their take on the issue. I’m still waiting.
Click the more option below to read the final (and now dated) draft of my piece.

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Inaugural Irish Blog Awards a success

Congratulations are in order for Damien & Co. as the first annual Irish Blog Awards ended as a complete success. I say “first annual” because I’m sure the event will return even if nothing official has been agreed just yet.

You can have a look at a flickr slideshow if you’re interested; there’s also a rough cut of the awards over on YouTube.

I’m disappointed I couldn’t go along and show my support to Irish bloggers, but from what everyone involved has been saying about the event, there will certainly be plenty of opportunity for me to attend a future incarnation of the awards.

Well done lads, see you next year I’m sure.

The art of the Vox-Pop

Vox-pops have to be one of the most frustrating aspects of modern media. In my opinion, they have a limited place in journalism but are over-used by numerous outlets as a cheap and easy way to ‘reach out’ to the audience. For me, the purpose of a news broadcast is to tell the public something that concerns them (but they don’t yet know). Telling the public what they think is somewhat pointless in news.
However; I would not be too quick to say that using a vox-pop is lazy journalism, because it isn’t. Often getting 20 seconds worth of decent vox-pop audio takes longer than getting 2 minutes of audio from an expert. It is, however, a cop out. Increasingly in Ireland radio stations are claiming to try and reach out to the public; this might be in the form of phone-in’s, text-in polls, vox-pops or listener-driven content. I don’t think these things really reach out to the public though, I think covering the matters that effects them in a professional manner is the best service the public can have. Why on earth would you want to listen to a couple of random people with no solid knowledge on a subject when you could have the experts give the full facts to you instead?
The fact of the matter is, however, vox-pops have their place and will not go away. I don’t like doing them, and I have yet to meet someone who does, but everyone has to do it at some point. Some people are better than others at them, but that doesn’t make the job any more likable.
So, for people forced to engage in Vox-pops, here are a 10 tips to make the experience as painless as possible, all based on my brief experience with the ‘art-form’.

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