Neville Hobson: Posts

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

The surveillance structure that underpins us all

GCHQ listeningHere’s another paragraph to add to the debate about privacy, surveillance, spying and the whole gamut of who does what, how and why with digital information that you think is yours and private but in reality is in the spies’ domain.

Last night, Channel 4 News broadcast a 10-minute report in its evening news show that revealed how Cable & Wireless, one of the UK’s largest communications firms, had a leading role in creating the surveillance system exposed by Edward Snowden in which the GCHQ plays a leading role.

I didn’t hear the words “alleged” or “allegedly” mentioned in the report.

The essence of Channel 4’s story is this:

[Cable & Wireless], which was bought by Vodafone in July 2012, was part of a programme called Mastering the Internet, under which British spies used private companies to help them gather and store swathes of internet traffic; a quarter of which passes through the UK. Top secret documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by Channel 4 News show that GCHQ developed what it called “partnerships” with private companies under codenames. Cable and Wireless was called Gerontic.

Watch the full story:

This is just another revelation in a litany of exposure of government surveillance – due largely to the actions of Edward Snowden – that suggests there is nothing any of us can really consider as private.

If what Channel 4’s report portrays is true, then fiction really is fact.

It’s not only governments, though – private companies are equally as bad, according to two reports in recent months.

Wired-Telegraph-data

Take a look at a sobering report in the November edition of Wired magazine in the UK that recounts the experiences and findings of reporter Madhumita Venkataramanan in her investigative piece entitled My identity for sale:

Earlier this year, I became curious about the personal-data economy. It has grown relentlessly into a multibillion-pound business of tracking, packaging and selling data picked up from our public records and our private lives. As I dug deeper into the world of trackers, it reinforced my anxieties about a profit-led system designed to log behaviour every time we interact with the connected world. I was aware that the data generated by apps and services I use daily – from geolocation and cookies to social-media tracking and credit-card transactions – was building a record of my past. Combine this with public information such as Land Registry, council tax and voter-registration data, daily location routes and social-media posts, and these benign data sets reveal a lot – such as whether you’re political, outgoing, ambitious, pessimistic, uptight or a risk taker. […]

And there’s more – check this report in the Telegraph on October 10 in which Sir Iain Lobban, Director of the GCHQ until the end of October 2014, says that big companies snoop on the public more than GCHQ does:

[…] In his first print interview, Sir Iain told the Daily Telegraph that the public should be more concerned with what private companies were during with their personal information.

“Look, who has the info on you? It’s the commercial companies, not us, who know everything – a massive sharing of data,” he said.

“The other day I bought a watch for my wife. Soon there were lots of pop-up watches advertising themselves on our computer, and she complained. ‘It’s that b***** Internet’ I tell her.”

Reality: anything you say or do online is up for grabs by the spies, whether from the government or from private companies. Reminds me of MAD magazine’s Spy vs Spy comic strip back in the day.

Spy vs. Spy

Yet this is no laughing matter.

(Photo at top by George Rex, used under Creative Commons license.)

The Hobson and Holtz Report – Podcast #782: November 17, 2014

FIRIntro: FIR is listed in a new search engine for marketing podcasts launched by Jay Baer;

Quick News: Is Google Glass’ future clouded as some early believers lose faith?, beware of “domain laundering”, is YouTube the new television?, troubling results from the popular Serial podcast; Ragan promo;

News That Fits: Twitter and Dr Oz, Victoria’s Secret, New England Patriots, Bill Cosby, Calvin Klein… why does nobody ever ask beforehand, “What could go wrong?”; Dan York’s Tech Report, recorded from a plane at Honolulu airport; latest Pew research examines public perceptions of privacy and security in the post-Snowden era; the Media Monitoring Minute with CustomScoop; listener comments in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+; organic reach on Facebook is not dead yet; Igloo Software promo; the past week on the FIR Podcast Network including a new FIR Interview;

Music by Adri-Anne Ralph; and more.

Listen Now:

Get FIR:

Messages from our sponsors: FIR is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years, www.ragan.com; Save time with the CustomScoop online clipping service: sign up for your free two-week trial, at www.customscoop.com/fir; Igloo Software, providers of an intranet you’ll actually like, delivered securely with our cloud platform: learn more at www.igloosoftware.com/fir.

For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report for November 17, 2014: An 89-minute podcast recorded live from Wokingham, Berkshire, England, and Concord, California, USA.

Links to websites, blog posts and other content we discuss in the show are posted as Delicious bookmarks to facilitate your connection with the discussions and sharing of that content.

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future podcasts, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype: fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at fircomments@gmail.com. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

To receive all podcasts in the FIR Podcast Network, subscribe to the “everything” RSS feed. To stay informed about occasional FIR events (eg, FIR Live), sign up for FIR Update email news.

So, until Monday November 24…

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

The local newspaper is dead, long live the local newspaper

The decline in print and the rise in digitalThe closure of printed newspapers around the UK counts new casualties in the battle to stem the tide of declining circulations and the ever-diminishing number of titles in print with news this past week that Trinity Mirror is shutting down seven regional newspapers in southern England.

The news has particular interest to me as my local paper, The Wokingham Times, is one of those casualties.

Founded in 1903, the Times has gone through many evolutions especially during the past decade or so as it changed ownership a few times; and as alternative sources for local news emerged as the internet and the world wide web evolved, more online choices appeared and the ability for anyone and everyone to get online becomes almost ubiquitous and continues to be ever easier, cheaper and faster.

The closure is a picture you could paint in communities up and down the country.

Trinity Mirror, current owner of the title and its siblings in Berkshire (and Surrey), said in its announcement that it intends to develop and grow its digital business around the getreading.co.uk website which offers digital versions of its Berkshire titles – Reading Post, The Bracknell Times and The Wokingham Times – and also delivers content to mobile devices via an app.

It’s not hard to see why Trinity Mirror is making this move. As its statement says:

[…the getreading.co.uk website] has achieved unrivalled market leading penetration in the area – in the last year monthly unique users have grown by 68% (Jan-Oct 213 to Jan-Oct 2014) and the site continues to show phenomenal audience growth.

In its report, Press Gazette quotes Simon Edgley, managing director of Trinity Mirror Southern, from the company’s announcement:

This is a bold digital-only publishing transformation that will re-establish us as a growing media business that delivers the best quality journalism to our digital-savvy audience. We wholeheartedly believe that the future of our business here in Berkshire is online and this is an important and pioneering step that might, in time, be applicable to other existing markets or indeed new ones.

Bold indeed, with the inevitable human cost – 26 job losses in Berkshire (50 in total if you include the other closures, according to reports). The flip side of that is “the creation of around 10 new digital editorial roles and two digital commercial roles,” says Trinity Mirror in its announcement.

The type of hard commercial decisions made that will lead to the closure of seven print newspapers are confronting media companies across the UK and elsewhere – at all levels, nationally, regionally and locally – as trends continue to show the inexorable decline in print and the increasing growth in digital content that meets the preferences and needs of contemporary consumers who want to consume content wherever and whenever they want, with whatever device they wish, comment on and share that content with their networks, repurpose it, create additional insights from it, and more.

The move to digital is indeed inevitable as is the consequent human cost in lost jobs where current skills clearly aren’t what the media companies need as they evolve in the new digital-only environment to survive and grow.

Does it mean there is no place for print any more? Not necessarily – looking at it purely in commercial terms, if your market analysis, business plan and the numbers add up, you may have a workable proposition.

And The Guardian’s report on the Berkshire closures includes this:

The Reading Chronicle, which has been published since 1825, will become the town’s only print title. Editor Lesley Potter said it was a sad day for those losing their jobs and for the people of Reading.

“We have been fierce rivals over the years, but we have always had a healthy respect for one another. We at the Reading Chronicle have absolutely no intention of abandoning print.”

You have to feel a touch of sadness at developments like this even as they mark another milestone in the transition of news and information, how it’s produced and presented to readers, and what they do with it.

So print newspapers gradually vanish but they continue online in name and purpose, mirroring the look, feel and presentation of their analogue forbears.

It’s called progress.

FIR Interview: Philip Young, Project NEMO, on Digital Naturals

Tablet at work

With every passing day, the distinction between online and offline becomes more obscure, says Philip Young as he explains his thinking behind ‘Digital Naturals,’ the topic of conversation with FIR co-host Neville Hobson in this FIR Interview, recorded in November 2014.

Today, Young says, nearly all of us have some digital competence. “We are becoming Digital Naturals, routinely using an array of online tools in our daily lives, even if few of us are completely comfortable in this new environment.”

Young believes the phrase ‘digital natural’ is a far more relevant and accurate way of describing people’s behaviours that transcend the rigidity and barriers of two behavioural phrases in current common use and that isn’t defined by generation, sex or age:

Digital Naturals helps both academics and practitioners understand today’s world. It is a helpful and necessary step forward from the outdated and divisive labeling of Digital Natives  and Digital Immigrants.

He explains how Digital Naturals help public relations practitioners, a topic that he references in this FIR Interview, expanding further on the ideas ands concepts presented during the third NEMO conference in Helsingborg in October.

Listen Now:

Get this podcast:

About our Conversation Partner

Philip YoungPhilip Young is project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy, based at Lund University Campus Helsingborg, Sweden.

He has been researching the impact of social media on PR practice for ten years, presenting findings at conferences across Europe. He is co-editor with Jesper Falkheimer, Mats Heide and Timothy Coombs of Strategic Communication, Social Media and Democracy: The Challenge of the Digital Naturals, which will be published next year in the prestigious Routledge New Directions in Public Relations and Communication Research series.

Philip also co-wrote Online Public Relations, second edition, with David Phillips.

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future podcasts, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype: fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at fircomments@gmail.com. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

Check the FIR website for information about other FIR podcasts. To receive all podcasts in the FIR Podcast Network, subscribe to the “everything” RSS feed.

This FIR Interview is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information: www.ragan.com.

Podsafe music – On A Podcast Instrumental Mix (MP3, 5Mb) by Cruisebox.

(Photo via Unify on Forbes. Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

FT conference bots to star at #FTInnovate

I bought a robot...

I’m looking forward to being at FT Innovate 2014 that takes place in London on November 19-20.

This latest edition of the Financial Times’ annual tech-focused business conference will concentrate on the digital “big bang” – and the digital natives, digital pioneers, digital technologies and digital practices it is spawning – and how it’s transforming the way businesses innovate.

The speaker line-up is impressive, and the agenda for the two days looks pretty compelling.

And here’s a nice bit of innovation that may appeal to you if you’d like to be there but can’t physically go – drive one of the FT’s “conference bots.”

Here’s what’s happening in London as outlined in an email from the event organizer:

Attendees at this year’s FT Innovate conference will notice a few unusual delegates mingling amongst them.

For the first time, 3 robots will be roaming the conference, listening to our expert panel of speakers, participating in the interactive roundtable discussions and connecting with the senior innovation managers who will be attending during the networking breaks.

The FT Innovate team are offering 3 lucky winners the chance to remotely control one of our robots from their own home or office. The conference takes place on 19-20 November 2014 so you’ll just need to be available on these dates and have access to a laptop/tablet with a video camera and high speed internet connection.

If you would like the chance to control one of our FT Innovate robots, enter our draw today by completing this short form. The closing date for entries is midnight on Thursday 13 November and 3 winners will be selected at random and notified by Friday 14 November 2014.

Of course, we think it’s even better to be there in person, and a limited number of delegate tickets are still available. To register, and for more information on the programme and speakers, visit www.ftinnovate.com.

Looks a lot more fun than just following a Twitter hashtag. Which you can do, of course: #FTInnovate.

See you there!

The Hobson and Holtz Report – Podcast #781: November 10, 2014

FIRBack to normal with Shel in California and Neville in the UK, both connected via a Skype call;

Quick News: Facebook bans “like our page” campaigns, consumers want more from the wearables market says PwC report, small businesses put their trust in reviews of vendors, Samaritans charity pulls “suicide watch” Radar app; Ragan promo;

News That Fits: Trust me, PR isn’t dead, says Stephen Waddington in a new call to action for PR professionals; Michael Netzley’s Asia Report: how Singapore’s human flesh search engines combat corrupt business practices; what’s driving the renaissance in podcasting, and should marketers jump on board?; the Media Monitoring Minute with CustomScoop; listener comments in audio, email and from the FIR Podcast Community on Google+; ads are coming to the comments section of publisher sites that use Disqus; Dan York’s Tech Report from Hawaii, on remote working, virtual staff and the virtual water cooler, and more; the past week on the FIR Podcast Network; Igloo Software promo; giving brand journalism a bad name: Chevron’s opacity with the Richmond Standard, and Verizon barely discloses it’s behind a news site and bans reporting of net neutrality on it;

Music from Elephant Revival; and more.

Listen Now:

Get FIR:

Messages from our sponsors: FIR is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years, www.ragan.com; Save time with the CustomScoop online clipping service: sign up for your free two-week trial, at www.customscoop.com/fir; Igloo Software, providers of an intranet you’ll actually like, delivered securely with our cloud platform: learn more at www.igloosoftware.com/fir.

For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report for November 10, 2014: A 96-minute podcast recorded live from Concord, California, USA, and Wokingham, Berkshire, England.

Links to websites, blog posts and other content we discuss in the show are posted as Delicious bookmarks to facilitate your connection with the discussions and sharing of that content.

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future podcasts, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype: fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at fircomments@gmail.com. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

To receive all podcasts in the FIR Podcast Network, subscribe to the “everything” RSS feed. To stay informed about occasional FIR events (eg, FIR Live), sign up for FIR Update email news.

So, until Monday November 17…

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)