I have to be “moved to speak”, which is why the progress of this blog is so jerkily irregular.  A childhood fascination with George Whitefield, the eighteenth century hedge preacher in my native Gloucestershire, taught me about the compulsion to speak out.  Whitefield once spoke to a crowd of 10,000 (it is said) at Kingswood outside Bristol, and “men and women answered his call with their voices, compelled to speak as the spirit moved them”.  (My father preferred the more refined oratory of the nineteenth century society preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who reduced vast audiences to tears, but my father’s daily observances were more moved by prunes than prayer so I take this reference lightly.)

You are being taken down this track by someone under pressure, from friends and colleagues, allegedly “interested in what you will say about the sale of the Guardian’s regional newspapers.”  I am not so moved.  The deal is trivial and, given the UK regional press, inevitable.  The consideration is only interesting if you recall that two years ago DMGT refused an offer of  £1 billion for its Northcliffe regional company: valued at the the price point established by this latest deal they would now get, by my calculation, £220 million.  One of the disadvantages of reserving all voting rights to A shareholders, and they all being family and friends, is that you lock in a sentimental regard for the past as well as defending yourself against predators.  Meanwhile, back at the Guardian, we have all long acknowledged that the not-for-profit trust at GMG can only act to protect the newspaper.  More locked in sentiment.  The Guardian has 37 million registered online users, but exists to keep the print.  Then I, who love the paper, say turn print into the offshoot of the web and create custom newspapers deliverable  from local print centres working on contract to deliver to subscribers within 12 hours of  customization.  The next attack must be on the print works.

But the voices I am really moved to write about are on mobile phones.  Two discussions this week convince me that we are not taking the mobile or the mobile network seriously enough.  We are still in the Stone Age of mobile content.  Is there not something faintly ridiculous about Steve Jobs telling the media last week that they were doing a grand job, and their content was ” invaluable”?  And the media having an attack of the shivers about Apple not giving them enough user data, or allowing them to connect print or web subscriptions to the Apple store subscription.  Truth to tell, I cannot think of a single media property that is “have to have” on an iPad.  You buy the device , and then it is “nice” to be able to read a Murdoch newspaper on it (possibly nicer there than anywhere, given the obliterating possibilities of “delete”).  Sports Illustrated seems to be taking the platforms of mobility seriously, but for the most part inflexible real world content , or lightly reheated web content is the menu on offer.  When the content/service/solution is so hot that you can give away the reader with the subscription, then we will know that we have cossed the great divide.  Until then, the content industry just has a crossed line.

So who does know anything about this?  Well , the B2B boys are well down the track.  Here is the voice of the head of IT at the US insurer Nationwide, talking to the FT about his mobile apps: “For the best experience, it is better not to have a web-based version [of the application] but one that is specific, depending on what the user is doing. It is about having right functionality.”

“It is not just a question of designing applications so they fit on a mobile device’s smaller screen, he says, but providing the right amount of task-specific information to field-based staff.  Too often, re-purposed PC or web applications produce cluttered screens, and frustrated users.”

So this will be our test bed.  B2B publishers will want to quickly integrate content into mobile workflow models.  Apps will become cheaper and cheaper to originate and customize and a great deal of current workflow and process content work will migrate into mobile, after existing for a while in both fixed line and mobile networks.  Commercial users will “publish ” for themselves, and content originators will become systems integrators ( proprietory and third party content integrated with process software to drive solutions), as well as sellers of key standard pieces of functionality.

In the course of time those who survive these troubled media years will be publishing fluently to all of the networks.  I do hope the Guardian is one of them.  And I am certain that by then the hegemony of the keyboard will have been broken, and we shall be communicating with these platforms in the most natural mode possible – our Voices.


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1 Comment so far

  1. Shane O'Neill on February 18, 2010 17:08

    In another life as a digital change agent, Bill Clinton would have said: “It’s the Workflow, stupid!”