By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent

Last Updated: 2:15am GMT 24/11/2006

  • Video: The Tories ‘sort-it’

    With a use of language that does not spare the blushes of traditional Tory activists, the party has launched an internet campaign called “the inner tosser”.

      Homepage of the 'Sort-it' website
    Personal debt is just the first of a number of topics that will be featured on the site

    The so-called “viral ad” campaign is the first of series designed to reach younger voters via the internet.

    Mr Cameron, at 40 the youngest by far of the main party leaders, has set great store on using the internet to target young people.

    Francis Maude, the party chairman, has also claimed the “blogosphere” for the Tories, claiming Right-leaning bloggers dominate the political internet.

    The new campaign features a video showing a young man being persuaded to spend beyond his means by an evil sidekick – “the tosser within” – who embodies his worst impulses.


    Click to learn more...

    It shows the man being persuaded to use his credit card to buy clothes and shoes as well as huge flat-screen television.

    “Two years’ interest-free credit – what do you care? You could be dead by then!” advises the evil friend.

    The young man finally buys a sports car, before being advised to curb his “inner tosser”, a slang expression with a variety of meanings.

    The campaign has been created by Ben Bilboul of advertising agency Karmarama, which was behind David Hasselhoff’s recent “King of the internet” campaign for Pipex.

    Mr Cameron, a former PR executive at Carlton, today justified the campaign.

    He said: “We know that we need to reach out to people disengaging from the political process.

    “We are launching ‘Sort it’, an innovative and provocative internet-based campaign designed to encourage young people to think about their own social responsibilities.

    “The first issue we have chosen is personal debt, but many more will be addressed in the months ahead, such as racism and homelessness.”

  • source


    Israel’s PR War

    Stewart Purvis

    November 23, 2006

    From The Guardian

    Amir Gissin runs what he calls ’”Israel’s Explanation Department”. Which is why it is surprising to hear him admit that many Israelis think “the whole problem is that we don’t explain ourselves correctly”.

    Last week, as al-Jazeera launched an Arab view of the world into English-speaking homes worldwide, Gissin was a man under pressure. At the David Bar Ilan conference on the media and Middle East, he faced an audience of Israelis who were unhappy about the way the propaganda battle with Hizbullah was fought and lost during the war in the Lebanon. They wanted to know how it could be done better next time, because most people in Israel seem to think there will be a next time with Hizbullah soon.

    Gissin said the words of his English-speaking spokespeople could not compete with the power of the pictures of civilians killed in the Israeli attack on Lebanese towns like Qana. And the Israeli parliament will not spend the money on an Israeli counterpart to al-Jazeera.

    But Gissin was not down-hearted. He declared there to be a “war on the web” in which Israel had a new weapon, a piece of computer software called the “internet megaphone”.

    “During the war we had the opportunity to do some very nice things with the megaphone community,” he revealed at the conference. Among them, he claimed, was a role in getting an admission from Reuters that a photograph of damage to Beirut had been doctored by a Lebanese photographer to increase the amount of smoke in the picture. This was first spotted by American blogger Charles Johnson, who has won an award for “promoting Israel and Zionism”.

    To check out the power of the megaphone, I logged onto a website called GIYUS (Give Israel Your United Support) last Wednesday afternoon. More than 25,000 registered users of have downloaded the megaphone software, which enables them to receive alerts asking them to get active online.

    It did not take long for an alert to come through. A Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, had issued a press statement condemning that day’s Palestinian rocket attack which killed an elderly Israeli and wounded other civilians. GIYUS wanted site users to “show your appreciation of the UK’s response”.

    One click took me to a pre-prepared email addressed to Dr Howells, and a slot for me to personalise my comment. A test confirmed that the email would arrive at his office, as if I had spotted his comments on a news website, in this case Yahoo, and sent it to him with a supporting message. In the emails, there would be no indication of the involvement of GIYUS, although Howells may have been suspicious that so many people around the world had read the same Yahoo story about him and decided to email him. The Foreign Office confirms that emails were received last Wednesday but will not go into any more detail.

    The most popular target of the online activists is the foreign media, especially the BBC, the news organisation which they love to hate. Earlier this year I was a member of the independent panel set up by the BBC governors to review the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We reported on the high number of emails we had received from abroad, mostly from North America, and the evidence of pressure group involvement. A majority of email correspondents thought that the BBC was anti-Israel, however if the emails that could be identified as coming from abroad were excluded, the opposite was true – more people thought the BBC anti-Palestinian or pro-Israel.

    The BBC has already had one encounter with GIYUS – an attempt to influence the outcome of an online poll. BBC History magazine noticed an upsurge in voting on whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence in Britain. But the closing date had already passed and the result had already been published, so the votes were invalid anyway. GIYUS supporters claim success elsewhere in “balancing” an opinion poll on an Arabic website by turning a vote condemning Israel’s attack in the Lebanon into an endorsement.

    For some of Israel’s supporters, a primary aim of their war on the web is an attempt to discredit what they see as hostile foreign media reports, especially those containing iconic visual images.

    One particular target has been the respected French TV correspondent, Charles Enderlin, whose Palestinian cameraman filmed 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura being shot and killed, as his father tried to shield him at the start of the second intifada. Enderlin accused Israeli troops of shooting and killing the boy. French supporters of Israel went online to claim the report was a distortion based on faked footage. His network, France 2, responded with legal action and, last month, in the first of four individual cases, a French court found the organiser of a self-styled media watchdog website guilty of libel.

    Another online target has been the TV footage of bloodshed on a Gaza beach earlier this year. A Palestinian girl was seen screaming as she saw the bodies of dead family members killed by what Palestinians allege was Israeli shellfire. When I mentioned the impact of these pictures at last week’s conference, members of the audience shouted “staged”.

    One person came up to me afterwards to suggest that the family had somehow died somewhere else and that their bodies had been moved to the beach to be filmed. Where, for instance, was all the blood? I pointed out that I had seen everything that the cameraman had shot and that some pictures were too gruesome to be shown.

    It is clear that the government of Israel wants to fight back against the impact of foreign media pictures like these. Amir Gissin talked last week of plans to get Israeli video onto sites like YouTube which he said were viewed by opinion “shapers”. And his cousin Dr Ra’anan Gissin, formerly Ariel Sharon’s media adviser, has endorsed the idea of having picture power at the country’s disposal ready for future conflicts. Referring to Israel’s opponents, he put it in his usual direct way: “You need to shoot a picture before you shoot them.”

    Stewart Purvis is professor of Television Journalism at City University in London. He is a former chief executive and editor-in-chief of ITN.



    Podcasts can be downloaded to a computer or portable MP3 player

    The number of US internet users who have experimented with downloading a podcast continues to grow but few remain hooked, research suggests.The survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found 12% of US people online had downloaded a podcast.

    Earlier this year, a survey by the same research group found that just 7% of online Americans had downloaded a show.

    But despite the growth, just 1% of respondents said that they would download a podcast on a typical day.

    This figure remains unchanged from the February survey.

    Research firm Nielsen NetRatings estimates that there are 207,161,706 internet users in the US.

    Sound explosion

    Podcasts are sound files, often made up of speech and music that can be downloaded and listened to on a computer, or transferred to a mobile MP3 player.

    Increasingly they are automatically delivered using software.

    They were originally the preserve of a small number of tech-savvy people who put them together on laptops and posted them to the internet. Topics varied from the sensible to the bizarre.

    We are at a crossroads of a major transition in the way media content is delivered and consumed

    Mary Madden
    Pew Internet research

    Cutting through podcast hype

    But now in addition to these homegrown shows, media organisations like National Public Radio in the US and the BBC in the UK use podcasting as an alternative way to distribute their content.

    As a result podcasting has exploded.

    Podcast Alley, a website that acts as a directory of shows, listed just 1,000 podcasts in November 2004. Today, it lists more than 26,000 different podcasts with more than one million episodes.

    “While podcast downloading is still an emerging activity primarily enjoyed by early adopters, the range of content now available speaks to both mainstream and niche audiences,” said Mary Madden, senior research specialist at Pew.

    “We are at a crossroads of a major transition in the way media content is delivered and consumed.”

    Dubious measure

    However, there are large discrepancies between forecasts of how the podcast market will take off.

    Man wearing headphones next to a computer

    Podcasts are still the preseve of young, tech-savvy males

    Last year, a forecast by research firm The Diffusion Group suggested that podcasts could have a US audience of 56 million by 2010.

    Conversely a report by Forrester Research in May forecast an audience of just 12 million.

    The difference in the two figures shows the difficulty of measuring and forecasting podcast numbers.

    Charlene Li, one of the authors of the Forrester report admitted on her blog at the time of the report that “measurement is still really hard to do”.

    In particular she said that “counting podcast downloads is a dubious way to measure usage”.

    However, some findings do match-up.

    In particular both the Forrester report and the new Pew Internet findings show that podcasts are the preserve of tech-savvy males.

    15% of online men say they have downloaded a podcast compared to just 8% of online women, the Pew research reports.


    Is the web going mobile at last?

    By Tim Weber
    Business editor, BBC News website

    Nokia N73 X-Series phone, using MSN messenger

    Microsoft’s messenger is now always on, and on your mobile

    At long last the web has become truly mobile, promises 3G network operator 3 with its new X-Series of mobile phones. But is this yet more hype or a consumer dream come true?

    Boring meeting, endless wait for the train? Whip out your mobile phone and watch a film that’s coming in on your Freeview or Sky box at home – or even one that’s on the hard drive of your personal video recorder.

    Want to listen to good music, or show off pictures of your last holiday? Take your mobile and download a podcast or check out everything that’s on your computer at home.

    Never miss a beat on eBay auctions any more – just bid on the move. Oh, and don’t bother with pub quizzes. The guys at the next table may use an X-Series telephone to access Google or Yahoo at broadband speed.

    The holy grail?

    Has mobile operator 3, owned by Hutchison Whampoa, discovered the holy grail of the mobile phone industry?

    Until now the billions of pounds and euros spent on expensive 3G licences – which allow mobile phone companies to offer services at broadband speed – have failed to pay off.

    Sony W950 X-Series phone using Ebay

    Never miss a bid on eBay

    Most people are still perfectly happy to use their phones for just a few things: making calls, for example, or sending text messages.

    Neither music downloads nor camera phones made the 3G cash registers ring.

    But if 3 is right, the search for a killer application was pointless.

    Instead, the secret of 3G could be old-fashioned marketing – and a pricing plan that’s nicked from the fixed-line internet.

    It’s not new – but it’s packaged

    For its X-Series of mobile phones, 3 has lined up impressive partners: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Orb, Sling Media, plus Skype and its parent company eBay.

    X-Series services

    Skype internet telephony

    Microsoft Messenger


    Unlimited internet access

    Google search

    Yahoo Go services

    Sling television access

    Orb access to home PC

    Podcast downloads on the move

    The underlying technologies are not particularly new or cutting edge.

    The special thing about 3’s offering is that it provides all these applications bundled, user-friendly and ready to go – even Sling’s access to your home TV set and Orb’s connection to your own PC.

    No hotspot, no laptop, no data card required.

    Until now only people with smartphones and a lot of know-how could modify their devices to make them do what an X-Series phone does out of the box.

    Little wonder that Nokia’s executive vice president Kai Oistamo does not use the word “phone” once. Nokia’s N73 X-Series is a “multimedia computer”.

    The killer

    But here comes the real killer: customers will pay a flat rate for all their data transfers.

    Nokia N73 X-Series phone, using Slingbox to watch BBC Two

    Watch television without paying for a subscription twice

    No counting of clicks or minutes or messages or megabytes of downloads (although “fair use” limits will apply, just as with many fixed-line broadband deals).

    All you have to pay is a single monthly charge on top of your 3 subscription.

    “Moving to flat rate charging is the key to unlocking the value of the mobile internet,” says Miles Flint, the president of Sony Ericsson.

    Frank Sixt, group finance director at Hutchison Whampoa, describes it simply as “the end of rationing”.

    Mr Sixt is cagey about the exact cost. All will be revealed at the beginning of December, although he promises that the service will cost less than fixed-line broadband.

    It is this new charging model that will strike fear into the heart’s of 3’s competitors.

    If 3’s price hits the sweet spot – say at just a tad over £10 a month – which customer with a hunger for mobile excitement would keep paying by the megabyte?

    A mobile revolution

    Nokia N73 X-Series phone, using Skype

    Now you can Skype on your mobile phone

    The economics of the mobile web are simple. “About one billion people use PCs to access the internet,” says Yahoo boss Terry Semel. “But three billion people use mobile devices.”

    Until now, says Niklas Zennstrom, the chief executive and co-founder of Skype, “we thought 3G was not real broadband, but it has now arrived”.

    Bringing the two together is a mass market opportunity.

    Meg Whitman, who runs eBay, calls 3’s X-Series a “key milestone” in the development of the internet.

    No wonder then that 3’s mobile web revolution persuades the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to happily share a stage.

    Who pays?

    The proposed flat rate may pay some of 3’s networks costs, but the real business model is advertising.

    Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all become experts in online advertising. Now they hope to transfer these skills to the mobile space.

    Yahoo, for example, offers its content for free, but shares with 3 the revenue from display and search-driven advertising on X-Series phones, explains Geraldine Wilson, who is in charge of Yahoo’s mobile offering in Europe.

    The drawbacks

    With its offering 3 has stolen a march on all its mobile competitors.

    When I tried it the service worked without a hitch, even though all around me dozens of journalists were also busily trying out new X-series phones.

    However 3 – with 14 million subscribers globally – is present in only a few countries. Any move into new markets would be prohibitively expensive.

    And there are other drawbacks.

    The X-Series has launched with just two phones, Nokia’s N73, and Sony Ericsson’s W950.

    Both are great, but not perfect – although more models are promised for 2007.

    But using them reminded me how slow 3G actually is – ISDN speed at best.


    The mobile phone is just an appendage in an already saturated communications market

    Chris Garrett, Hove

    Send us your views

    What would have been blistering speed five years ago has a snail’s pace feeling in todays’ gigabyte world.

    Soon 3 will upgrade its network to the faster HSDPA standard. But to use it, customers have to upgrade to even newer phones.

    And there is another worry that must be keeping network operators up at night: Are there really enough people out there, who want to fill their “dead time” with mobile access to the web?

    3 November 2006 

    Woman watching podcast

    The SNP is seeking to target the younger generation

    A hi-tech video plea to voters using podcasting technology has been launched by the Scottish National Party.Party leader Alex Salmond will be hosting regular podcasts over the next six months in an effort to reach young voters, graduates and professionals.

    The Scottish Executive has already moved into the realm of MP3 downloads, with selected events and first minister’s questions available online.

    UK Conservative leader David Cameron has also started his own video weblog.

    ‘Target graduates’

    The SNP’s podcast, filmed in Glasgow’s George Square, was also published on the YouTube website.

    “With an estimated one in four 25 to 40 year-olds with MP3 players such as Apple’s iPod, the SNP is using this media to target graduates and young professionals,” the party said.

    “Polling confirms this age group as the strongest supporters of independence and the SNP is wooing these voters with a pledge to lift the burden of student debt from thousands of young Scots and their families.”

    The Nationalists are planning a series of podcasts in the run-up to the 3 May Holyrood and local elections.


    We just got this note from Tina in Finland, who agreed to let us blog it here. Regardless of how you may feel about the issue, it’s a pretty powerful story.

    Thanks to the fantastic flexibility of WordPress, I was able to make a campaign site supporting the legalization of fertility treatments for single women and lesbians in Finland that quite possibly was a major factor in the law passing. (Treatments had been available before, but had not been explicitly legal, and the conservative parties had introduced a motion to make them illegal) The site shot up in popularity and we were sent statements by all kinds of politicians, including EU reps, ministers, and members of parliament. In the end, treatments were legalized by a 22 vote margin (83-105) which was far more than anyone dared to predict.

    The site got over 11,000 people to sign a petition, got them to write letters to specific MPs (which Finns never do), and got hundreds of them out for a peaceful and well-behaved protest that made the front page of the biggest newspaper in Finland. (I put a link to the English newspaper article at the bottom of this)

    We ran this site, that got thousands of hits a day, with no more than five individual citizens (with day jobs). Had I had to set up a site from scratch, I couldn’t have given the other non-html-fluent people passwords to add and change content, etc, and the whole thing would not have been possible. Part of what also made this work was that the site looked slick enough (thanks to the template and customizable header) that I didn’t need to fiddle with that, and could focus on adding the tidal wave of content that rushed in in the final days before the vote. AND you had made WordPress translatable, so the details didn’t look funny in Finnish.

    We love to hear stories about people using blogs as a lever to move the world, even if it’s just a little bit.


    19 July 2005

    By Jeremy Scott-Joynt
    BBC News business reporter

    Rupert Murdoch

    Rupert Murdoch has outlined online far-reaching strategies before

    Just three months ago, news magnate Rupert Murdoch made an unusual admission.

    He had realised, he told a high-powered audience at the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington DC, that he had got something rather important rather wrong.

    News Corporation, the global media group he controls, had failed properly to engage with the online world – and risked losing its hard-won position in news as a result.

    As a “digital immigrant” – as he described himself – he acknowledged he found it difficult to visualise how News Corp should change its ways. But he had no doubt that radical change was coming, and that it was inevitable.

    Commentators took the unusual “mea culpa” as a sign that News Corp was gearing up for a wholesale revamp of its approach to the internet.

    On 19 July, what appears to be the first really substantive part of the new strategy swung into action: the purchase, for $580m, of the firm behind the wildly popular online community.

    Deja vu?

    Cynics may charge that Mr Murdoch has been here before.

    In 1999, another keynote speech laid out lofty ambitions for News Corp online – only for several well-financed operations to close down within months of their launch.

    Young people don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important

    Rupert Murdoch

    Before that came failed initiatives such as Delphi Internet in the mid-1990s, an online service which mingled News Corp’s UK content with US material and failed to capture anyone’s imagination, and an abortive internet service provider experiment called LineOne.

    Everyone’s an editor

    Even so, buying Intermix – and thus Myspace – seems to match the requirements Mr Murdoch laid down in his 13 April speech.

    The central message was that the days of newspapers editing content into a one-size-fits-all package to be consumed without question by the reader were numbered.

    Young people “don’t want to rely on a God-like figure from above to tell them what’s important,” Mr Murdoch said.

    “And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

    “Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle.”

    Myspace fits neatly into that definition. It is a network of pages – most set up by individuals, some by musicians and other creative types – each mixing self-generated text and pictures, links to other content elsewhere, and streamed music and video to create networks of friends and contacts.

    The result is a densely interwoven community, which its adherents – 14 million a month, by some measures – say is highly addictive.

    Myspace logo

    Is Myspace the key to News Corp’s new strategy?

    Not that different, in fact, from Mr Murdoch’s description of a world where users act as their own editors, choosing their own news and content from the huge range of possibilities available online.

    Of course, every page of Myspace content contains adverts – and Mr Murdoch left his listeners in no doubt that their books would bleed red ink unless they found ways of exploiting the boom in online advertising.

    Backing brands

    What remains unclear is where the other part of Mr Murdoch’s vision fits in.

    Later in his speech, he talked of the importance of brands – the heart, after all, of the News Corp empire.

    Despite the doomsaying, newspaper journalists and editors were perfectly positioned to keep supplying the core content on which the communications communities would be built, he said.

    “We have the experience, the brands, the resources, and the know-how to get it done. We have unique content to differentiate ourselves in a world where news is becoming increasingly commoditized.”

    That may prove challenging – after all, suspicion of existing media outlets is rife in weblogs and other chatty outposts of the web.

    Then again, earlier in July News Corp announced the launch of Fox Interactive Media, a hub for Fox news, sport and entertainment in the US.

    Myspace, News Corp says, could drive traffic to Fox Interactive Media.

    And most importantly, Myspace has detailed logs of its users’ preferences, online behaviour and personal information.

    That could help the company tailor what it does to the ever-more-discerning market which Mr Murdoch believes he has identified.