Adblock arms race

„The fundamental problem with advertising as a business model though, is that customers don’t like it unless it is very unobtrusive, and the industry is largely incapable of self control in that respect (did you know that most people install ad blockers due to worry about use of their data to „personalise“ them). It is a „tragedy of the commons“ problem in that it is always to the advantage of the „ad-overgrazer“, so cheaters prosper – so it’s always just easier to assume the endgame, i.e. they are all acting in bad faith – and block the lot.“

The world of pop-up ads is coming to an end, thanks to ad blocker tools, conscious customers and less intrusive ads. Albeit, subtle ads are not necessarily the more likeable way to communicate commercialism, especially when your friends promote products in their digital channels and you’re not quite sure if it’s an ad or not.

We could do with media education as a required course in schools these days, or we’ll see the beloved ad-overgrazers pop-up in the minds of our future generations without even noticing it.

via broadstuff

Exporting Soft Culture

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One of the sluggish, paywall pages at Handelsblatt Global Edition.

Germans are great at exporting heavy machinery, yet lackluster at exporting soft culture in form of professional, news media publications in English.

There have been some, partly lovable attempts from German media companies, to establish and attract a global audience in English. So far, only Spiegel International can play with the big boys in term of reach and relevance. Once up and running was Berlin Worldwide in the early 2000s, but Springer pulled the plug after the numbers didn’t add up. Bild, Germany’s biggest tabloid, tried as well and pulled the same plugs after a few years – it can’t even be found in the archives.

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A former title page of Berlin Worldwide in the Waybackmachine.

Then there’s The Local, run by Swedes, doing digital only news with a solid run. Just recently, Handelsblatt launched it’s English edition into a paywall and is gaining some traction. The idea itself is unique, since there isn’t one notable business media staple, Made in Germany, in the world’s lingua franca. Personally, I think it’s a bit too patriotic, which in itself is worth a century of dissertations, what it means to be a patriotic German, or better European. At least it’s possible to do big global business without guilt, by exporting heavy machinery, which includes tanks and guns. Technically the site is pretty sluggish and could see some usability updates.

Then there’s ZEITmagazin’s „Berlin State of Mind“ print only cultural read, which launched in 2013. Funny that a Hamburg-based media company needs Berlin as it’s tag line. I think it’s the most ambitious soft culture zine about and from Germany out there. Glossy, yet with a solid editorial focus on photography and aesthetics. Too bad, you can’t really find it on the Interwebs or order it for English speakers to understand. Last but not least, there’s Deutsche Welle, pretty much a force funded political arm of the German Foreign Ministry, albeit in 30 languages and ad free!

I wonder whether German culture isn’t made for a truly global read. If you look at The Economist, BBC or The Guardian, who’ve had a head start in terms of language competence, as well as some notable Empire experience, the Brits are clearly the true global media players. I think US publications are too America-centric and lack a certain cultural sensibility that drifts away from I’m a fifth Irish or NBA world championship rings.

Maybe a truly European global voice is needed, one that transcends borders, knowing that planet earth is tiny, yet embraces local patriotism with years of experience, unhurried and diverse, with the tightest data privacy, football and olives in the world.

How We Will Read

This post is part of “How We Will Read,” an interview series exploring the future of books from the perspectives of publishers, writers, and intellectuals. Read our kickoff post with Steven Johnson here.

If you could move one feature of paper books to digital books, what would that be?

Skimming. It’s a funny thing with print vs. ebooks; the digital age is supposed to be all about attention deficit disorder and hypertextual distractions, but ebooks lock you into reading them in a linear fashion more than print books do. It’s much easier to pick up a print book and flip through the pages, get a sense of the argument or structure, than it is with an ebook (or magazine.) It’s a very interesting interface challenge: I think it’s probably solvable, and I know many smart folks are working on it, but we don’t have a true solution yet.

Information E-Quality

Remember the early hype about everyone being a Net publisher and the possibility of 1001 viewpoints? Maybe that is what Gutenberg had in mind too. What online media do you consume? How many independent viewpoints do we consume?

Anno 1994: Internet reporter Matt Drudge starts his infamous drudgereport.com. He breaks the Lewinsky scandal, is the first to name vice-presidential nominee in 1996, and first to break the unholy alliance between Microsoft and NBC. All from his Hollywood apartment, a phone line, modem, and a 486 Packard Bell computer.

A year later, Salon.com launches and is quickly hailed as a true independent voice. It still is quality journalism today, only with a small change since January of this year: everyone has to pay. A model for the future? Even though the online advertising industry continues to grow, MSNBC.com or Spiegel.de usurp most of the revenue

So what happened to the 1001 viewpoints then? Blogs are surely providing some interesting viewpoints. By now, publishing a web page is easier than setting up your VCR. Thanks to blogger.com or sunlogs.ch. Type, click post, and your done.

Giving access to a medium, allowing opinions of citizens to be heard is essential towards the health of any democracy. More importantly, based on understanding different viewpoints, quality journalism on the Net is becoming harder to find, focus is on find.

As a publisher or journalist, striving for objectivity has been the ultimate ethical goal. Without this qualitative filter, opinions often turn out to be based on personal sentiments rather than arguments. Still, the Net’s potential to present different viewpoints is larger than ever before. More publishers, more web sites, more opinions. More quantity coupled with more quality would be nice.