This was a bit of a shock . For one thing , all messages that include the words ” All hail , Dave ” are usually aimed at the incoming Prime Minister , Mr D Cameron , rather than yours truly . For another , I do not really know what a rock-god is , and my attempts to ask my family to explain have led to widespread hilarity which , five days later , has still not subsided. Yet it is undeniably true that a kindly soul tweeted this message to mark my Chairman’s summing up of the first day of the ePublishing Innovations Forum ( organized by a great team at Incisive Media )in London last week . Which shows you what sort of conference it was – lively , full of information and exchange , and every now and then , exuberantly over the top .

In more sober moments we inevitably discussed two urgent issues amongst the many strands pursued by speakers . The conference opened on Paywall Tuesday , the day when the Times and the Sunday Times launched their joint suicide pact . This topic reverberated around us on both days , with contrary viewpoints taken by speakers who felt , much as Peter Preston did in today’s Observer ((30 May 2010) that a facsimile newspaper would find a small and loyal audience , while others , including the afore-mentioned rock-god , felt that even if you argued  for the value and distinctive nature of the Times ” journal of record ” status and its very high quality columnists ,  the thing to do was to sell these values for themselves and sell them seperately , not look back over one’s shoulder at a format which , literally , now belongs in another world .

But that world was always with us . The other major topic was the future history of the iPad . Adam Hodgkin even passed his round the audience ( there was relief on his face when it eventually came back ) and both he and OUP’s Evan Schnittman dilated interestingly on business modela and distribution in a device -laden world . The sceptics said that the iPad had found the enthusiasts , but not yet a definition of use in a mass market . We may have to wait for 3.0 for the right functionality , but who cares , since we Europeans are still awaiting 1.0 .No one went to the wonderful extremes of Sue Halpern in May’s edition of The New York Review of Books . This is worth quoting ” In fact , Web browsing on the iPad is less than ideal …..But why bother going through a browser to get to YouTube or to read the AP headlines or check the weather when there is a dedicated app for each of these ? This is what is really revolutionary and game changing about the iPad: once there is an app for everything , its Apple’s Web , not the wide world’s ” Wow , this lady is obviously a rock-goddess !

Meanwhile , in the conference room we were more likely to decide that Google was the threat to the Web that needed attention . We covered video advertising , noted the return of display courtesy of Hugo Drayton (Inskin) , and looked at classifieds through the well-educated eyes of Fish 4 . In a hugely impressive session , Louise Rogers , the CEO of TSL Education , gave an object lesson in how to create community and fill it with user-derived content  – and fascinated many of us by her consistent refusal to go for instant monetization , preferring to build community strength in depth to continue to support her recruitment advertising model . This seemed admirable , though the proper approach will be tested by UK  government spending cuts in her sector – and the eventual wish of her private equity investors to make an exit . Her case study , and excellent demonstrations of clear strategic thinking at the Economist , at Bloomsbury publishing and at Complinet meant that no one could leave the room without the conviction that the digital revolution is now over . We even began a serious discussion of the semantic web without a single groan from a full audience representing some 120 industry players .

My apologies : I cannot mention each exceptional speaker by name . But any meeting that starts ( when he reached us ) with a keynote from Simon Waldman , looking back at his Guardian years and the ” creative destruction ” of the markets in which he worked  , and ended with Shane O’Neill giving a rallying cry of hope  based on the re-use of ex-government data  was not short on inspiration . I came away exultant : this industry is going to make it , and neither Google nor Apple can do anything to stop us !

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