wwww.prompt-communications.com Newsletter  
10th February 2006  

Dear Reader,

Unless you’ve had your head in a big bucket of silica gel for the last year or so, you can’t have failed to notice that 2006 has been hailed as the year of convergence, a time when we’ll all finally be able to access and send any form of content over any kind of network using our favourite faddiest device of the moment. Or a phone. Or a PC.

Of course for businesses, true IP convergence is a somewhat more complicated and pivotal issue than that, which is why we’re travelling to Barcelona this weekend to tap the knowledge of the industry’s leading players first hand at the 3GSM World Congress 2006, running from 13th to 16th February. We’ll be sure to report back our findings in next week’s newsletter.

If you enjoy following the latest IT trends in this issue of your newsletter, why not visit our website and read our blog, where you'll find further regularly updated nuggets of technology news and views?

Please remember, if you or any of your colleagues are experiencing difficulty in receiving our mails, try adding us as permitted senders in any local spam filters you may be running. For any feedback or to discuss how we can help you with your technology PR, marketing, copywriting or surveys, please call me on 0208 996 1653 or email me at hbutters@prompt-communications.com.

Best Regards,

Hazel Butters
Prompt Communications

Technology News

By Dave Wilby & Sean McManus

Google bans BMW

Google has removed BMW from its German search listings after the car-maker was caught using doorway pages to hype its ranking in search results. BMW had a doorway page that fed the keyword ‘gebrauchtwagen’ (used cars) to Google in an attempt to attract visitors looking for them. The doorway page is invisible to human visitors, and is only there to trick search engines.

Some have pointed out that the technique is commonplace among car manufacturers, but it still contravenes Google’s quality guidelines. These stress that search engines and users should see the same content, and that companies should avoid tricks designed to increase their ranking. By banning BMW, Google has sent out a signal to the search engine optimisation community that it won’t tolerate underhanded techniques. But how can Google keep up with all the websites using techniques like this? Every webmaster has done something to attract more visitors - where will Google draw the line?

AOL and Yahoo to charge for emails

Reports are widespread that AOL and Yahoo will begin charging to deliver emails straight to users’ inboxes, bypassing the spam filters. Although this has been widely reported as an attack on spam, it’s got more to do with the deliverability of legitimate bulk emails. Spam will continue to be sent without paying the charge and will be mostly filtered into the spam bin. Publishers of newsletters or legitimate opt-in promotions will pay to ensure their messages get through.

Companies that want to guarantee delivery will reportedly have to show they have permission to send the email, although it remains to be seen what level of proof the email operators will accept.

Not everyone is in favour and some are concerned that this could be the start of charges to send all emails. Richard Cox, CIO at anti-spam organisation Spamhaus has spoken out, telling CNET that the charging plans will “destroy the spirit of the internet”. He is quoted as saying: "The internet has become what it is because of freedom of communication. There should be no cost for particular services, and email should be free and accessible to all."

3G pioneers happy to bravely go where no phone has gone before?

Despite a sluggish start, it appears the maturation of 3G is finally spurring flashy phone owners to dabble in rich data services. A new report from mobile research specialist M:Metrics has revealed that 3G adopters in the UK are five times more likely to use advanced data services than their straight-talking GSM peers. Unsurprising, really, given the technical limitations of 2G handsets and networks, but for the record nearly 19 per cent of 3G phone owners had sent or received video compared with seven per cent of 2G owners, while 10 per cent of 3G users had downloaded games compared to just three per cent using 2G. Despite this rather optimistic view of 3G acceleration, some analysts remain dismayed at the poor take-up of 3G equipment and services generally in the UK.

Internet telephony firm goes public

As expected, Vonage, one of the first large-scale VoIP firms in North America to make any commercial headway, registered its intention to become a public company this week, in the hope of raising £140m ($250m) in new capital investments. The company will also appoint a new CEO, Michael Snyder, former president of ADT Security Services, on 28th February, as a further step in its mission to capitalise on what it sees as inevitable future growth in VoIP. Vonage has always made good revenues in its embryonic market, but to date has yet to yield any profits.

Cartoon protests continue to blaze online

According to the BBC, almost 1,000 Danish websites have now been defaced by Islamic hackers protesting over controversial cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad, and a further 1600 Western sites have been attacked and defaced as part of the same protest. The attacks typically replace home pages with pro-Islam messages and condemn the publication of the images. Some messages have called for boycotts of Danish goods. With online communities increasingly mirroring offline culture, it’s perhaps no longer surprising that prominent real world disputes spur a digital equivalent.

US Congress tailors encyclopedia definitions to suit

Wikipedia is pointing the finger of blame at US Congress staff for biased changes made to some political biography entries. The online reference site claims to have traced IP addresses responsible for unjust edits to articles about senators back to Congress. Wikipedia has now blocked the Congress network and launched an inquiry after staff representing Democrat representative Marty Meehan admitted buffing up his biography. Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is an open online encyclopedia consisting of more than 1.8 million articles in 200 languages, all updated and edited by its visitors. According to the BBC, changes spotted to date range from the controversial (Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman’s description changed from ‘liberal’ to ‘activist’) to the mocking (Republican senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma falsely alleged to have been voted ‘most annoying senator’). President Bush’s entry has now been edited and re-edited so many times, Wikipedia moderators have been forced to block public rights to that particular page.

Rocketing European mobile roaming costs exposed by EU

Mobile phone consumers in Europe might be quids-in should operators be forced by the European Union to cut expensive roaming fees levied on subscribers calling or receiving calls abroad. The European commissioner for information, society and media, Viviane Reding, outlined her plans at a meeting with national regulators Thursday, and it is thought she hopes to cap roaming costs at the same level as a cross-network call by 2007 or 2008 at the latest.

Marketing News

By Sally Forge

Virtually flawless marketing

While the mobile industry is scratching its thoroughly radiowaved head over how to maximise revenue from content at 3GSM next week, the FT (subscription needed) is marvelling over how digital band Gorillaz has hit marketing paydirt with an outfit that only exists in data form. The band, which has sold nearly ten million albums and is promoted on its website and through mobile phones, has been nominated for five Grammy awards, two Brit awards and is on the shortlist for the UK Design Museum’s Designer of the Year award. Gorillaz may even tour the UK in a couple of years. Manager Niamh Byrne provides a clue to the success saying: "The quality of the music and visuals is really high [...] Everything is creatively led."

I want my own TV

Ofcom is in consultation over the possibility of extending the boundaries of TV sponsorship from programmes and series to entire commercial channels. Sponsorship would not be allowed on any channels broadcasting news bulletins or current affairs and the same restrictions that apply to industries including tobacco and alcohol, would come into play (although provisions have been made for betting and gaming companies, if channel audiences are over 18).

Media Update

By Annie Kasmai

 

VNU Business Publications has acquired Breakthrough Publishing’s technology news website, The Inquirer. This deal will enable The Inquirer website to expand its coverage, as well as enabling VNU’s online portfolio to ‘share common resources and reporting skills’ more widely. The online publication was founded in April 2001 by Mike Magee, and now boasts a worldwide audience of up to two million users per month. The site contains news, features, opinion pieces and reviews aimed at buyers, system integrators and consumers in high-tech industries.


SideStep, a US travel search engine, last week launched in the UK and Ireland - a brave thing to do in an increasingly competitive sector. SideStep believes that its service, which searches across a network of more than 100 travel sites, will give it a head-start in the market. The search engine does not sell travel itself but instead refers visitors to third-party travel sites. Its network includes online agencies, low cost carriers, major airlines, hotel chains and car rental firms.

Side Step was founded in California’s Silicon Valley, attracts over four million users a month, and claims to have generated $1 billion (£575m) in revenue for its partners last year.


The Financial Times has appointed Rob Minto to the new role of interactive web editor. Minto will report to FT.com editor Simon Targett. His role is to develop blogs, podcasts, discussions and forums on the website.


James Chapman, Daily Mail political correspondent, has been promoted to deputy political editor on the Westminster lobby team. His new role means that he will attend the daily Downing Street lobby briefings, join the prime minister or senior ministers on foreign visits and cover debates in the House of Commons.


Sophy Buckley, UK companies reporter for the Financial Times is joining PR company Clarity Communications.


The Financial Times’ Peter Pearse, ICN editor for four years has a new role as Sunday news editor.


The Guardian is extending its comment and analysis content with a rolling comment website.

 

Prompt Guide to Corporate Doublespeak

By Lance Concannon

Partnering



In the technology business, the concept of ‘selling stuff to customers’ is laughably old-economy. These days tech-companies prefer to ‘form ongoing partnerships with key industry players’ – it just so happens that the nature of those partnerships generally involves your company handing over cash to their company in exchange for goods or services.

Just don’t think of yourself as a customer, oh no, you’re a partner. The main difference between customers and partners is that customers are entitled to customer service, whereas partners are entitled to... er... we’ll get back to you on that.

Blog of the Week

By Dave Wilby

Global Voices

Free speech is big news this week. Global Voices Online is a launchpad for a cosmopolitan grab bag of blogs updated from around the planet. It’s a non-profit public media project sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School.

Here’s the general idea: It seems that a growing number of bloggers around the world are emerging as ‘bridge bloggers’, posting information and viewpoints about their country or region to a global audience. Visit Global Voices and you’ll be guided to some of the more original and interesting posts from some of these more obscure corners of the world, not only in the form of regular blogs, but also as podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs.

A global team of regional blog-editors aggregates content, and links to around half a dozen top reads in their regions for daily roundup sections, while centrally posted features from around the world also appear on the main site each day. The idea is that through Global Voices, citizens of the blogosphere will be able to redress the balance of an English-language dominated, Western-focused media, through the thoughts and ideas of everyday people the world over. It may sound a bit ambitious and worthy to be much fun, but actually it’s a cracking source of information from voices that aren’t often heard, with some real characters to meet and share comments with.

If you’re a blogger yourself, and would like to find out how to get more involved with the Global Voices project, you’ll find everything you need right here.


Website of the Week

By Dave Wilby

The Cloud Appreciation Society

If you believe that clouds are unjustly maligned, that life would be immeasurably poorer without them, and that blue-sky thinking is banal in the extreme, then you really ought to stop whatever you’re doing right now and read the manifesto of The Cloud Appreciation Society.

On this engaging site you’ll find cloud chat, cloud art, cloud poems and above all, some truly stunning galleries of submitted cloud photography that will take the breath away from even the most ardent shoe-gazer, given half a chance. Who couldn’t be impressed by the 600 mile long Morning Glory Cloud that regularly sweeps across Australia beneath light aircraft surfing its crest? Or some of the perfectly circular cloud holes that hover over the home counties?

Join the society and you’ll get a badge, a certificate, a letter and access to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about clouds but have been too afraid to ask. It’ll also revolutionise your desktop wallpaper for sometime to come.


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