Well, I think I have waited long enough! When Ashley Highfield became CEO of Johnston Press in the UK I had hoped that the next generation newspaper would pop out as speedily as the BBC iPlayer did during his digital reign at the BBC. But time is moving on and I feel that I must file at least an interim report on this front. And in doing so I will try to avoid the now useless words of the day, the “over-used and under-defined until meaningless “terms like Ecosystem and Curation which now litter this discussion until whole sentences can be written in code which only the originator can unpick – and which he dares us to question. Twenty five years as a consultant has made me value obscurity and multiple shades of meaning as much as the next man from McKinsey, but here I will try to avoid terms that defeat the object and soften the brain, and you can be the judge of my success!

The relationship with the newspaper has broken down, but not our relationship with the news. Excellent commentators like Chris Anderson have pointed out that very local news – the car crash on the next street, the local government decision on street lighting in an area – can have more lasting resonance than an international crisis or a distant war. Yet if we are interested in either type of information, we want all we can get until our interest peaks – and wanes. Our friends can be vital news sources alongside Reuters or AP. We need to be able to follow new themes without fussy form-filling, and we do not need to be bored by news updates on issues of no or of former concern. We want no intrusive advertising, but we are happy to be sold the new product lines of retailers who interest us, provided that they disappear when they cease to interest us. We want the back story in full when we want it, as a desirable default which we can call up but not as something which we have to endure on every theme that interests us. We want services that learn from us, yet also services which give us the opportunity to find new issues (“if you liked that, try this…”).

So the next newspaper is a community, with social networking elements, and an intelligent system with regard to internet-wide story-gathering. It looks to its readers privacy, and security, at every stage, and links to retail are permitted by assent of users only. It is dedicated to the avoidance of spam and casual advertising contact. In order to ensure that its lists cannot be sold for lead generation purposes it is probably a subscription service, utilizing some existing news brands to give it authority and credibility. Like Darwin’s tree shrews, there are some prototypes of aspects of all of this around, but no niche-dominating mammals are yet in sight. Facebook, with its graph search and its links to Bing clearly thinks this way, and poses a huge threat to the dessicated remains of the old guard press in Europe and North America. Yet Facebook may not survive its willingness to sell its audience. And at present it does not quite engage with the “workflow” of the consumer – this service must also link to user requirements in education (personal and family), to health and healthcare and to savings and investments – just like that good old jumbo Sunday supplement in print, only fully profiled. Facebook has the Recommendation style to do the job, using the community effectively to drive choice, but I believe it will be the inspiration of the next generation of solutions, rather than the floor plan.

Turn instead to look at some of the software available. Start with Gravity (www.gravity.com), the haven of the escaped crew of My Space regrouped under CEO Anit Kapur . But this is not another Community. It launched its Personalization API last week (1 February 2013) and has become a very effective technology for interfacing trad Web with the device world of mobile. And this is vital – Your Newspaper is very Mobile. Whether this personalization works for advertisers I rather doubt, but here is a technology which is ready to go for “publishers” and well worth experimenting with: press coverage of Davos noted that Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer had said that “interest graphs” (see Facebook above) were part of Yahoo’s future. Well, here they are in the present. And then, look at My6Sense (www.my6sense.com), the Israeli contestant in this beauty parade. Maybe the first move in mobile will be the personalised content bar of this type, since we currently seem lost for an interface on mobile platforms which enables us to unwrap personalised services at will… And now, go for a long browse on Trap!t (http://trap.it). Ignore that annoying exclamation mark! Here is a beta with a sample of 100,000 news sources just moving into AI gear to give a new twist to “adaptive reasoning “in the context of personalized information. It is founded on CALO technology – Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes – and comes out of DARPA (a first cousin therefore of Apple’s Siri). Despite the appalling linguistic crimes on this site (the founders, in true Silicon Valley mode, claim to have created a “cognitive prosthetic”), this is the closest that I can identify at present as the progenitor of the newspaper of the future. Mobile, intelligent, personalized ( yet suggesting new avenues). So who can implement, and what happened to those Russians?

The Russians in my headline are the Lebedevs, Alexander and Evgeny, Father and Son. And the context here is the fact that they own London’s evening newspaper, the Evening Standard. Formerly a DMGT property, this also entails owning some 33 hyperlocal web services around the London region. And the UK’s regulator, ever dedicated to preventing dangerous concentrations of media power in Britain, has just awarded the local television franchise for London, London Live, to (you have guessed it) the Lebedevs (presumably on the grounds that they were not Murdochs!) For once, I applaud a monopoly, since this media integration in a region large enough to sustain development at scale could be the spawning ground for the rise of MyNewpaperInLondon, as they will probably call it. When real broadband comes to the UK it will come to the London region first (the EU/UK plan calls for 100 mb/second by 2020, though that plan has been reduced in funding from £50bn to $24bn so the British government can build a prestige railway line to the North!). Whatever the politics, this intense content concentration, plus mobile, plus infrastructure, plus all of the available intelligent software equals an immense opportunity. Hope we are all equal to it!

Don’t you hate those tacky moments in presentations when the speaker says something like “Hands up who used a deodorant this morning?” and we all squirm a bit and try to think of the right answer – are we meant to smell good, or not to use aerosols for environmental reasons, or rely on pure products like water to do the trick, or regard smelling bad as a badge of democracy? Somehow they always end up by putting you in a false position. So if these are the enemy tactics, then I plan to use them in a presentation I am due to make this afternoon.

Who owns an automobile? I plan to ask, fairly confident of a full house here in Washington DC. But who shares an auto? I seek users of ZipCar, or WhizzGo. And who shares a ride in an auto? Looking here for subscribers to NuRide, ZimRide, GoLoco. And who uses P2P car rental to avoid high rental costs? (see DriveMyCar.com, WhipCar and RelayRides). The point of this annoying catechism is simple. In the land where a man’s car is his castle, the last three years has seen an unprecedented rise in collaborative car investment sharing start-ups. It takes a recession to remind us that the aging, rusting hulk in the drive way costs us depreciation every year, apart from financing costs and running costs. Car ownership used to be a life style given: now its a conscious use of resources decision – and there are clearly other options. And those options rely on networked collaborative relationships to work.

So do my friends in the information markets think that people who shared a car to work will not share content collaboratively with third parties? On one side they acknowledge sharing cultures, and complain bitterly when they see breaches of intellectual property ownership. On the other side they shy away from service sharing with other source suppliers to create service solutions which would help, through ease and completeness of access, in avoiding such breaches. In doing so they force markets into other channels, and as the water finds its way round the rock they may find themselves in mortal danger.

While these thoughts reflect the ideas that I raised yesterday, they were also prompted by an announcement by the Macmillan Digital Science service, figshare, last week. In it figshare announced a new deal with the Public Library of Science in which figshare undertakes to load all of the experimental, evidential data associated with articles published by PLoS. This gives two big collaborative pluses for PLos; in the first place they are able to satisfy the strong demand for the publishing of evidential data without a huge technology investment, and they can point out to users that being enabled to view supplemental data in a browser alongside the article offers major advantages in discover-ability for datasets, videos, graphs, figures and images. All of these factors will draw more article traffic to PLoS. For figshare this collaboration moves them into the mainstream for open access data publishing, and since articles can be sourced from the researcher’s figshare repository prior to technical review by PLoS One, for example, it makes figshare a more sensible collaborator in the sharing that matters – between researcher/author and service supplier.

These collaborations become important and indicative of the future of the industry. For example, poll results (GP Bullhound 2013) this week indicated that over 60% of current games users would want, globally, to buy into the Xbox 720 technology rather than the Sony PS4. It may be that Sony have moved too slowly to turn the PS range into both a consumer and an educational platform. Microsoft, however, have been clear on the educational drive, using SharePoint (whats in a name?) to associate all sorts of content and service environments (think only of copyright cleared content resources like Global Grid for Learning). Walking around BETT in London last week I felt the forming of an answer to the question “Who shares this market with Pearson, if the duopoly idea holds true?” The answer at the moment would be Microsoft, with a sharing attitude towards technology and content collaboration which is serving them well.

Not that they won’t have a struggle in local markets. I was pleased to see at BETT how much revived the service lines of RM appeared to be, compared to a year ago. RM Unify, a system for creating single sign – on in the Cloud to the whole range of Cloud Apps and services that a school may use is obviously a great step forward. And I really liked the idea, in the RM eBooks library, that a teacher could create a research library around a topic for a class, and r3ent access to the books required for the duration of the project. Then let teachers review each others listings, I thought (perhaps via TES Resources?) and the collaborative loop is joined up. The question then remains, in this consolidating world, of who buys TES – or even RM?

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