MindBullets 20 Years

Move over CNN, we’re all connected now

Phone blogs and podcasting transform traditional media

Imagine you are a network news exec. What could you do with 900 million news reporters, all armed with cameras, and globally dispersed to capture eyewitness news at the click of a cell phone key?

Imagine if all your employees and customers could post words and pictures on your company web site, live and open for everyone to see.

This is the new phenomenon that’s transforming news media and business communications. The old standbys, text, pictures and audio are being sourced and disseminated in radical new ways, thanks to camera phones and the internet.

It’s really pretty simple. Hundreds of millions of camera phone owners are out there, alert to a newsworthy scene and ready to send their clips to the highest bidder. Or, it may just be one customer’s perception of your new product or service. Honest views, normally just spoken to friends, are now being broadcast to the world.

At the other end are the podcasters. Those e-junkies who are not afraid to have their say, who subscribe to dozens of online radio shows and news services, downloading the material to their iPods and Smartphones for listening and browsing at leisure.

Is this an exciting idea, or just plain scary? It doesn’t really matter as it’s already happening all around you. When will you catch the blog?

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

Blogs and Photo Blogs

Weblogs, often shortened to just “blog”, are online personal journals and generally started as daily postings from an amateur writer. Since then, experts have hosted weblogs on specific topics, and professional writers have adopted them for immediacy and the personal touch. Blogs have started to threaten MSM (the mainstream media, in blog talk) in terms of impact and popularity. More than 50 million people world-wide are estimated to have read blogs in 2004. MIT’s Technology review wrote of blogs in their April 2005 edition: “At their best, blogs are subversive, provocative and fearless. The ideas proposed on blogs have some of the characteristics of commodities in a free market. New postings are quickly valued (for what they are) and reliably stupid bloggers are not linked to by their peers, and no one visits their websites”.

During 2004, Sun’s internal blog was made available to outsiders (more than 1000 of Sun’s staff regularly participate – including the company president) and quickly became one of the most human and authentic aspects of Sun’s PR. Blogs are becoming good for commerce too.

With the popularity of digital cameras and camera phones, it is becoming commonplace to include pictures in these blogs and for blog content to move freely from blog to MSM.

This is not just about traditional media lending immediacy to their stories with content from ordinary people; it is also about first-hand journalism in the form of online diaries or weblogs. “If something happens, suddenly all these mobiles sort of appear from nowhere, and start taking pictures… You see it everywhere,” says Henry Reichhold, digital artist.

It has been called “open source news” or “moblog journalism” or even just “plog” (for photoblog) and it flourished in the 2004 US election campaign. Soon it will be the primary source of immediate news, not just from reporters, but from those millions of camera phone users out there on the streets, and on the internet.


“Podcasting” is the making of audio files (most commonly in MP3 format) available online in a way that allows software to automatically download the files for listening at the user’s convenience.

These “podcasts” can take many forms, from informal personal audio diaries, to technology shows to traditional radio shows. What makes podcasting better than traditional radio or internet audio shows is that users now have the ability to subscribe to shows that interest them and have these shows downloaded to their computers or other personal devices and listen to them later at their convenience.

Basically what this means to your traditional radio listener, is that instead of skipping through endless channels searching for something worthwhile to listen to, they simply select one of the recent shows that they were actually interested in and listen to that, similar to what we see in the “time shifting” devices like TiVo for television.

The beauty of podcasting comes mainly from the fact that all “shows” you subscribe to are downloaded in the background and you only get alerted once a new show is downloaded. This also means all content is stored locally so you can take it with you or copy to other media devices like an iPod.

In effect, broadcasting is no longer restricted to radio stations and internet audio shows. If you want to host a show on growing apple trees, people interested in growing apple trees will probably subscribe to your podcast. Once photo blogs are available as podcast feeds, traditional audiovisual media have to adapt or take a back seat.

Let’s leave a final comment to the Technology Review editorial: “Blogging and the Internet must be credited for transforming the lofty castle of publishing into something like a public utility. But blogs can also be destructive and unaccountable. Readers would do best to enjoy blogs for what they are – reactive, unmediated, immediate opinion – and not mistake them for journalism”.
September 2001: 9/11 Attack captured on home video
An amateur video of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre is screened throughout the world.

November 2004: Camera phones used to shoot front-page news
Twice in one month the biggest Dutch newspaper publishes front-page pictures shot by amateur photographers using their mobile phones. De Telegraaf daily newspaper published a picture of the dead filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh who police say was probably killed by an Islamic militant. Two weeks earlier, the Dutch newspaper published photographs shot with a cell phone from a police shoot-out in the town of Enschede.

Meanwhile two phone blog portals, Buzznet and Ploggle, make it easy for photo bloggers to get their work published and share news, opinions and interests visually with communities across the globe. They are soon followed by MSN and Yahoo.

2005: Camera phones now number in the millions
Over 200 million camera phones are sold this year alone. Nokia says the annual 2008 camera phone market is expected to be more than 600 million units. Many of these are megapixel models and can take short video clips.

Podcasting takes off as tech-savvy consumers with little time to waste start subscribing to their favourite shows on the internet and downloading audio programmes to their iPods and laptops. The beauty of podcasting is that one can simply subscribe to a regular feed, and get the shows you want downloaded daily for later listening. It’s like TiVo for radio.

2006: The phone blog trend takes off
With a net-connected camera phone, it is a simple matter to snap a picture of an unusual occurrence, an unhelpful sales assistant, or a hot new artist – and post the picture together with a comment on your blog site. This creates instant fame, notoriety or shame for the subject, assuming your phone blog has a following. What makes it even easier to ‘broadcast’ your ‘news’ is the ease with which podcasting software provides a feed to any subscriber of regularly changing content from a consistent source.

Sounds like a TV channel doesn’t it? That’s exactly the point. The feed brings you the latest content from your favourite podcasters, and you can view and listen to it in your own time, and skip the boring bits. Now it’s possible to literally run a news show from your backyard – right onto Smartphones all around the world – via the internet of course.

2007: The Empires fight back
In a move reminiscent of the music industry’s fight with Napster and KaZaa, Reuters sues podcasters for re-broadcasting syndicated material. They claim infringement of copyright and patents relating to the now defunct Mini Reuters service.
To compete against unauthorized personal blogs, large corporations open their web sites to customer viewpoints and staff comments – an explosion of openness that is creating heros of the first-movers in each industry. Banks, airlines and professional service firms are last to jump on the bandwagon – to the predictable ire of customers.

2008: Zillions of connected cameras
Over 600 million camera phones are sold this year. By year-end there are almost a billion cameras with network connectivity roaming the globe. Many of these are Smartphones, capable of combining pictures and text into comprehensive news reports, and streaming audio visual material onto and from the internet.

2009: CNN takes a dive
CNN sees its worldwide audience decline sharply. With billions of phones around the globe capable of capturing, sending and receiving media content, who needs to tune in to fixed channels?

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.