How Audience Consumes Media

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?


4 October 2006


Only 20% of online Brits own an iPod, says a survey

Britons are increasingly tech-savvy but are still bamboozled by tech jargon.According to research from Nielsen/NetRatings, people are buying cutting-edge technology but often don’t understand the terms that describe what their device actually does.

So while 40% of online Britons receive news feeds, 67% did not know that the official term for this service was Really Simple Syndication.

Terms such as podcasting and wikis are still meaningless to many.

“In the relentless quest for the next big thing when it comes to new forms of digital consumption, there is a significant tendency for the industry to over-estimate consumer’s knowledge and understanding of the seemingly limitless new terms and products out there,” said Alex Burmaster, internet analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.

Knowledge snobbery


VOD – video-on-demand

Wikis – Collaborative technology for editing websites

IPTV – internet protocol television

RSS – Really Simple Syndication alias automated news feeds

PVR – personal video recorder

Web 2.0 – user-generated content phase of internet

Triple-play – internet, TV and phone in one subscription

VoIP – voice over internet protocol

IM – instant messaging

Blogging – frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts on the web

Podcasting – internet broadcasting for playback on MP3 players

Acronyms in particular foxed users. 75% of online Britons did not know that VOD stands for video-on-demand, while 68% were unaware that personal video recorders were more commonly referred to as PVRs.

Millions of people keep in touch via instant messaging but some 57% of online Brits said they did not know that the acronym for it was IM.

“The technology industry is perhaps the most guilty of all industries when it comes to love of acronyms,” said Mr Burmaster.

“There is a certain level of knowledge snobbery in so far as if you talk in acronyms you sound like you really know what you are talking about and if others don’t understand then they are seen in some way as inferior,” he said.

Terms such as blogging and podcasting have achieved a high enough level of exposure to have made it into dictionaries but there are still plenty of people who don’t understand the terms.

35% of online Brits had heard the term podcasting but didn’t know what it meant and a quarter had never heard of it. Similarly with blogging, 34% said they had heard of it but weren’t sure what it meant.

Rejecting iPods


PC – 85%

WAP-enabled mobile phone – 57%

Games console – 53%

MP3 player (not iPod) – 48%

Laptop – 47%

3G-enabled mobile phone – 30%

iPod – 20%

High Definition TV – 15%

PDA – 13%

“Some of the figures surprised us,” said Mr Burmaster. “It is important to remember that this is a survey of people who are already online so the numbers among the general population will be even higher.”

Regular surfers are, according to the survey, gadget-hungry. Interestingly, although 68% of those interviewed possessed an MP3 player, only 20% owned iPods – the biggest selling digital music player.

The iPod may be less popular with surfers because there are fewer online music stores from which music can be purchased, said Mr Burmaster.

“The whole ethos behind the internet is about open access and for people already online, being able to access music from a variety of sources is important,” he said.


Editor’s week

We may not have the experience of the BBC, but we have the talent

Emily Bell
Saturday June 3, 2006
The Guardian

There was an interesting piece in the BBC’s in-house magazine, Ariel, this week, by Andrew Brown (blogger, broadcaster and contributor to Guardian Unlimited) about podcasting.In a nutshell, Andrew expressed the opinion that newspaper podcasts were in general inferior to those put together by professional broadcasters: “Practically anyone who can rattle two keys after each other is being dragged in front of a microphone and made to talk to readers.” His point is not necessarily wrong: that podcasts – bits of audio that are put into downloadable sound files – are more popular as extensions of existing audio brands, such as the BBC, than they are as extensions for other media. But it is not the whole picture by any means.

We had a robust discussion about his views on our own daily newsdesk podcast last week – which was produced by a former senior BBC producer and correspondent, Tim Maby, who is working with us on some of our shows. We have a foam-lined cupboard at the end of the corridor (“the pod”) where we now produce nine weekly podcasts and we are about to go into production with a daily World Cup podcast, anchored by our own columnist and broadcaster James Richardson (have a listen and try some of our other output at intention is that every day of the tournament we will have a show uploaded and ready to listen to from the wee small hours – if you like robust humour coupled with high-end international football analysis then this will be required listening. In fact it already is. Checking Andrew Brown’s thesis against the podcast charts on iTunes is an interesting exercise. In the sports category, for instance, you have Baddiel and Skinner at the top – who are reviving the decommissioned television fantasy football format for audio. Next you have Nike’s videocast, then you have the Guardian’s World Cup preview podcast, next the Beautiful Game’s independent football podcast and then finally Five Live’s podcast. So – four of the top five sports podcasts in the week before the World Cup are not in fact from traditional broadcasting outlets although some of them do feature professional broadcasters.

The truth is that established brands, media or otherwise, do have an advantage when it comes to persuading people to try their output – and the bigger your brand reach the more likely it is you will succeed in drawing an audience. The relentless podcasting and advertising by the BBC is in fact doing a service to the whole market by attracting a larger audience to the new medium.

In general the BBC dominates the podcast charts with its recut radio shows. But there is so much more scope to make the portable medium substantially different from existing radio – and at a far lower cost – that it would be foolish for other media brands to ignore it.

If non-broadcast media take the attitude that they have no business tentatively pushing their tanks on to radio’s lawn then they will miss an opportunity to connect with an audience that might not be using their publications – either online or offline – but could very well be interested in their content.

At the moment the collective terror of the music industry is putting the brakes on any podcasts that feature music with rights restrictions – which pretty much covers anything other than unsigned bands or commissioned live performances – which has allowed the speech format and particularly current affairs and comedy to flourish.

My guess is that as it becomes increasingly cheap and easy to upload both audio and video on to sites there will be increasing numbers of people podcasting and a growing audience – and if now is not the right time to experiment with these new formats, you might find that you have missed the boat completely.

· Emily Bell is editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited


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23 January 2006

By Torin Douglas
BBC media correspondent

Radio presenter Chris Moyles

Radio 1’s Chris Moyles is the BBC’s most popular podcast

Suddenly, it seems, podcasting has broken through to a new level.

The BBC’s first published podcast chart reveals that the Radio Four Today programme’s main interview was downloaded more than 400,000 times last month, second only, among BBC programmes, to Radio One’s Chris Moyles Show.

But the real change is in the way other media groups are now using podcasts to challenge broadcasters such as the BBC.

Last week, The Guardian newspaper announced that the Ricky Gervais Show had been downloaded over two million times, having already topped the Apple iTunes download charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Now other media owners are racing to get into the audio business.

After the Gervais podcast on Guardian Unlimited, the Conservative leader David Cameron popped up in the new Daily Telegraph podcast. Two days later, it was Tony Blair, podcast by The Sun, which said it was as significant a breakthrough as the first radio broadcast by a prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

Then last Friday, Jon Snow appeared in Channel 4’s first podcast, a documentary about cannabis and the young.

Print radio

The first sign of the potential for other media to get podcasting emerged two months ago.

We have a role in helping our audience find the best of what’s out there and we also have an opportunity to identify the rising talent emerging through podcasts

Simon Nelson, BBC Radio and Music

“What actually happened is that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant approached us to say they wanted to explore the idea of doing a show through our website” said Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited.

“I think they wanted to work in a format where they were in complete control of what they put out, but also to put it out to a wider audience.”

The Daily Telegraph has gone further, appointing its own podcast editor, Guy Ruddle. He arrived from the BBC earlier this month and says you can now listen to the Telegraph’s business news and sports reports, as an alternative to Today’s.

“We are the only newspaper that is doing anything vaguely resembling a daily news bulletin, with news and comment and analysis,” he said.

“That to me is the future – the ability to give people an audio version of the newspaper and, eventually, for them to be able to scroll through items and pick out bits they want to listen to or not.”

The Telegraph also features its own columnists, some reading out their own words, which can sound a bit stilted at the moment, something Guy Ruddle, as a professional broadcaster, will no doubt sort out.

But on Friday, it had something more exciting, the first broadcast interview with one of its columnists, the Olympic and trans-Atlantic rower James Cracknell. It caught the moment as he reached land with broadcaster Ben Fogle, who had nearly drowned when their boat capsized.

Radio role

Is the move into podcasts by rival media a threat to radio broadcasters? Simon Nelson, head of new media for BBC Radio and Music, believes not.

A new video iPod

Digital music players such as the iPod are used to listen to podcasts

He says the huge demand for podcasts, including BBC programmes such as From Our Own Correspondent and In Our Time, shows the enduring relevance of radio in the digital world, wherever it comes from.

“I think we see our role as trying to stimulate that, trying to help people find the ways to do it simply,” he said.

“We have a role in helping our audience find the best of what’s out there and we also have an opportunity to identify the rising talent emerging through podcasts.”

The Ricky Gervais Show has demonstrated the potential, and the threat, for broadcasters. Gervais and Merchant were previously on the commercial radio station XFM and have also broadcast for Radio 2.

Since they started the online show for The Guardian, has proved a runaway hit for the newspaper.

“The scale of it has certainly surprised us,” said Ms Bell, “and opens up lots of possibilities for non-traditional broadcasters to get into an area that perhaps they wouldn’t have thought about.”


By Jonathan Fildes
BBC News science and technology reporter

Monday, 10 April 2006

Man wearing headphones next to a computer

Companies want to know who is listening to podcasts

People downloading to podcasts are still in a minority, despite the hype surrounding them, research suggests.

The number of US households listening to podcasts will increase to just 12 million by 2010, a Forrester Research report has found.

Tech savvy, young males are most likely to listen to take away audio it said.

But a survey by research firm BMRB found that nearly eight million Britons will go in search of a podcast in the next six months.

The different numbers could suggest that UK consumers are a bunch of technophiles, much happier to dip their toe into the water than their US counterparts, or that coming up with these numbers is an imprecise science.

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

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

Difficult numbers

Podcasts seem to have had a meteoric rise, moving from the preserve of a few interested techies to the technology of choice for any company trying to appeal to the digital generation.

It is like a radio broadcast, but one that you can download from the internet to any MP3 player, not just an iPod as the name suggests.

Hand holding an iPod

One of challenges with podcasting is that there are no audited or reliable reporting mechanisms

Sarah Prag, BBC

You can use pieces of software to automatically gather the podcasts and pop them straight on to your player, meaning that you always have the latest programme in your pocket.

The technology has got traditional broadcasters excited and worried at the same time. The technology gives them a new opportunity to distribute their programmes and potentially a whole new audience.

But podcasting is cheap. All you need is a laptop, a microphone and a bit of a flair for technology and you can create your own programmes.

As a result broadcasters are worried that their market share will be washed away over night by a torrent of amateur broadcasters and companies that look on podcasts as a useful way to get their message out.

Hence, broadcasters, advertising companies and financial institutions are all clamouring to work out who is online, where they’re downloading and what they’re listening to.

Tiny audience

The survey of 5,000 US consumers by Forrester found that 3% had tried listening to a podcast.

Of them, 2% had experimented with audio downloads but did not listen on a regular basis.

Girl with headphones at a computer

Fewer women download and listen to podcasts

There will be just 700,000 diehard downloaders in the US this year; a tiny audience compared to the 25 million people who tune into stations run by traditional broadcaster National Public Radio (NPR) every week.

The report says that it will take a long time for people to ditch their transistors and join this small group of breakaways because downloading programmes is complicated and content is sparse.

However, the good news for broadcasters is that the people who persevere gravitate towards audio from established radio stations rather than relative newbies.

Rough guess

The Forrester survey backs up some of the findings in a report from another research firm, BMRB.

Its survey looked at digital consumption in the UK. It also found that podcasts are the preserve of young males.

But it predicts a much quicker uptake of podcasts in UK households, with around eight million adults logging on and walking away with their favourite radio programmes in their pocket by September this year.

The huge discrepancy between the figures for the US and the UK could point to relative differences in listening habits, online dexterity or even national character.

It could also reflect just how difficult it is to make these predictions.

Digital listeners

Even broadcasters can only take a rough guess at many people are actually listening to their podcasts.

Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles

Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles tops the BBC downloads

“One of challenges with podcasting is that there are no audited or reliable reporting mechanisms,” said Sarah Prag, a senior project manager responsible for the BBC podcast trial. From next week, the BBC will offer 50 different podcasts.

In February, the latest month for which statistics are available, 1.7 million people downloaded BBC content. The Chris Moyles show on BBC Radio 1 is the most popular.

But according to Ms Prag that only tells the BBC how many files are downloaded. It does not say anything about the number of individuals or whether people are even listening to the files.

However the kinds of programmes people are listening to does give a hint about digital demographics.

Programmes like In Our Time and From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4 are not the kinds of programmes people normally associated with the MP3 generation, said Ms Prag.

“You would expect Chris Moyles to do well but what this tells us is that Radio 4 is doing extraordinarily well,” she told the BBC News website.

“It’s knocked some of our assumptions on the head.”


Teenager on internet

Young adults are moving away from traditional media

The “networked generation” is driving a radical shift in media consumption, says UK telecoms regulator Ofcom. Sixteen to 24 year olds are spurning television, radio and newspapers in favour of online services, says the regulator’s study.

The 2006 Ofcom report also found that increasingly households are turning to broadband and digital TV.

And it notes 1.8 million homes are now using their broadband connections for internet telephone calls.

This generation has grown up with new technologies – and it is this generation for whom the uptake is instinctive

Spokesman, Ofcom

At a glance: Ofcom report

The Ofcom report analysed industry and consumer trends in television, radio and telecommunications during 2005-6.

It discovered young adults, whom it has dubbed the “networked generation”, are embracing new technologies much more quickly than the general population.

Sixteen to 24 year olds, it reports, spend nearly three hours on the net each week.

Seventy percent (compared to 41% of the general population) have used some kind of social networking site, such as My Space, and one in five have their own website or blog. Half of the group owns a games console and/or an MP3 player.

Shifting habits

Ofcom’s research suggests this online lifestyle may have contributed to a fall in television viewing – this age group watch seven hours less television per week than the average viewer.

But when they do watch TV, it found they are turning away from public service broadcasting in favour of digital channels.

The reduced consumption of other media, such as newspapers, magazines and radio, amongst this age-group compared to the general population, has also thought to have been driven by the net.

A spokesman for Ofcom said: “The speed at which consumption habits for this age group is changing is faster than other groups.



“They are leaving the traditional media and moving towards new media.

“This generation has grown up with new technologies – and it is this generation for whom the uptake is instinctive.”

Kay Withers, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), said: “There have been lots of studies showing the younger generation are shifting away from traditional to new media, but at IPPR we are seeking to understand why this is and what this means.

“We want to find out what it means to turn away from newspapers and public service broadcasting, and to find out the types of news sources they are now favouring.

“This could have a major impact on media regulation, public policy and on the political world too.”

Connected households

The report also found technology adoption is not limited to the young.

From 2004 to 2005, the number of households with broadband connections increased by 63%, while a total of 18.3m homes now have digital television.

Ofcom also said that a number of “converged services” had arrived on the market, such as internet telephony, internet television offerings and television to mobile content.

Mobile phones are also playing an increasingly important role; Ofcom found as many households had a mobile phone as had a landline.

But despite increased consumption, the average household spend on telecoms fell by 5% to £76 a month between 2004 and 2005.

Ofcom chief operating officer Ed Richards said: “Our research reveals dramatic and accelerating changes across all communications industries.

“The sector is being transformed by greater competition, falling prices and the erosion of traditional revenues and audiences.”

Graphic (BBC)


Youth spend more time on Web than TV-study:

NEW YORK, July 24 (Reuters) – Teenagers and young adults spend more time on the Internet than watching television, indicating a shift in media consumption for a demographic prized by advertisers, said a new study released on Thursday.

The survey of 2,618 people, aged 13 to 24, was conducted by independent research firms Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited in mid-June on behalf of Internet media company Yahoo Inc. (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people) and media services company Carat North America.

On average, young people said they spent nearly 17 hours online each week, not including time used to read and send electronic mail, compared with almost 14 hours spent watching television and 12 hours listening to the radio, the study said.

A majority of youth polled said they are also likely to be engaging in other activities while using the Internet, such as listening to radio or talking on the telephone. Many said they were most likely to look on the Internet for information on movie and music reviews or celebrity news.

“While other generations are more likely to be wed to a single type of media…today’s teens and young adults are not overwhelmed by the abundance of media choices…but rather feel empowered by it and are able to multi-task,” the study said.

Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer at Yahoo, said teens and young adults are using the Internet as the “hub” of their media activity.

“There’s a lot in the study that shows this is a primary medium for information, product information, pricing information, school needs,” she said. “It would never occur to them to go to a newspaper to look up a movie time.”